Thursday, 31 May 2012

Killer Heels

This looks like an accident waiting to happen, doesn't it? This photo is from a 1937 National Geographic magazine, reporting on the preparations for the coronation of George VI.
Royal events have always brought out the bonkers in people...

Wednesday, 30 May 2012


This advert from a 1950s 'Practical Householder' magazine shows its age in so many ways. Not only do we see the wife in her frilly apron and her hubby doing DIY wearing a shirt and tie (one must be properly dressed at all times!), but the poor fool is sawing up asbestos board (without a mask) in order to HIDE a roll-top bath!
Fashion is a fickle mistress...
(I also love the way he goes to the DIY shop dressed like a secret agent.)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Mischief Goes To Mars

 'Mischief Goes to Mars' is the title of a set of cards that were given away with Wright's Biscuits. Somewhat implausibly, South Shields, 'The Home of Wright's Biscuits' is also the location of a rocket launch site. I like the way the huge sign looms over the area - the South Shields equivalent of the Hollywood sign.
I must admit that I have not read the whole story, but as far I can tell, it seems to be mainly about the importance of biscuits in space travel.

And then something about giant Martian fruit. You get the idea.

The illustrations are wonderful, and you have to love the way Mischief and Marie go on their space voyage dressed in shorts and pinafore respectively.  They don't even take a woolly jumper in case it gets cold later.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Parents of All Nations

Quite why anyone thought 'Parents of All Nations' was a good idea for a line of cheap plastic toys, I really cannot imagine. Sadly, I only have the one set of parents, still in their original packet, so I don't know which Nations were represented. Judging from their traditional costumes, I think this couple must hail from the People's Republic of Polka Dots.

The whole thing has a rather alarming look now, as Mummy's arms and Daddy's leg have come loose, and the whole thing is a tangle of smashed limbs. Poor Mummy Polka-Dot looks terrified.
 But I'm really more interested in the packet header, which strangely, carries a picture of a tent. Maybe this is where they became parents in the first place?

Or maybe, it's meant to convey the idea of some sort of international peace camp, where the aforesaid Parents of All Nations can join together to promote World Harmony. The picture on the back shows the somewhat stunted parents (or are they the children?) linking arms and striding out in a jolly manner.
No European countries appear to have attended the camp...

Friday, 25 May 2012

Friday Postcard - Totally Spacehoppers

Just look at this smug girl with her two spacehoppers, and her pristine pink crimplene frock. She looks like the antithesis of me as a girl. My socks would be stained with grass, and wrinkling themselves down my legs. I don't suppose she's even bounced on one of those spacehoppers. And how many spacehoppers can one girl use? Maybe she doesn't even know what you're supposed to do with them? That would explain why she's just standing there, otherwise it seems a missed photo opportunity, doesn't it?
And a bizarre subject for a postcard, whatever she's doing with them.
(p.s. You have my permission to supply rude captions for this photo.)

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Origami Paper

A pack of origami papers with a strangely random cartoon cover. Here we have Japanese culture in a nutshell - the artful simplicity of origami, the crazy pop culture of karaoke, cute kawaii cartoon characters and an unhealthy obsession with children with extra-large heads.

Oh, hang on.
I left out sushi. And kimonos. And electronics, oh and gothloli girls. And loads of things, come to think of it. So that first paragraph isn't really true.

But I think the winking, pointing boy is a bit smarmy, and I like the cat.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Curious Friends - Abnormals Anonymous

Never had so desperate a group of human beings banded together

This extraordinary book is from the collection of wackystuff.  'Never had so desperate a group of human beings banded together'. Yes, well, they look 'desperate', don't they? A man knitting and a woman smoking a cigar. Crikey, whatever next?

I thoroughly recommend wackstuff's Flickr photostream. He has an amazing eye for ephemera, both kitsch and curious. Wacky, in fact.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


The practice of sticking googly eyes on inanimate objects is one that I wholeheartedly support - in principle. In practice, the results can be somewhat disappointing. Enter 'Squiggles'.

Sometimes, a bit of fake fur and some googly eyes can conjure up a winsome little character. But Squiggles... is a strip of fake fur with some googly eyes stuck on top.
Squiggles' USP is that you can 'Stroke my back and watch me wiggle!' True, if you stroke it, the piece of fake fur undulates gracelessly. If you stroke it quickly it undulates backwards with a leap. Something to do with the way the suede layer underneath sticks to the surface it's on, I think.
As a source of fun, the possibilities are extremely limited.

Monday, 21 May 2012

My Latest Purchase

As a collector of curious objects, I often have to go with my instincts. At a car boot sale you don't always have time to consider things carefully. When I saw this painting (literally in someone's car boot) on Saturday, I was immediately drawn to it as something weird and interesting. I'm not sure how much I would have paid for it, but I got it for £3 and I was happy with my bargain.

Now I know some of you will look at it, and think that I paid £3 too much, but if you're like me and have an eye for folk art/ outsider art/ naive art, call it what you will, then I hope you'll understand.

I put it up in the living room when we got home, just to try it out, and have been looking at it for the rest of the weekend, and I absolutely LOVE it. Apart from the fact that it's Indian, I know nothing about it. I don't know why there is a stripey elephant emerging from the side of the woman's head, or whether there is any meaning or significance to any of it. And I don't think I ever want to know. It's one of those things that just feel right, and I'm very pleased to own it.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Friday Postcard - We Are Looking For You

A couple of cute, but slightly creepy postcards. Can you imagine being the poor child who got one of these? "We are looking for you at Sunday School" says the top one, with a crowd of children who wouldn't be out of place in The Village of the Damned.

And then, is it my imagination, or is the next one slightly threatening? "Did you forget to come to Sunday School?".  Well, did you?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Avon Knocking

This is a sweet little vintage lapel pin, which I guess may have been awarded to especially successful Avon Ladies. That dates me, doesn't it? But back then, it was all about your 'Avon Lady'. People of a certain age will remember only too well the adverts with the catchphrase of the doorbell - 'Ding Dong! Avon Calling!'.
So why is the lapel pin a door knocker?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Before there was Toby Maguire

I'm afraid there's no 'Curious Friend' this week (just call me Betty No-Mates), as very few people seem to have the sort of weird collections that I have. Funny, that. But if you have an odd object you'd like to share, please get in touch via my profile.

However, today's object does belong to someone else, but only because I ebayed it some time ago, so it's no longer in my possession. It's a poster from 1987 advertising Rimmel make-up. And for some strange reason, they decided to use a picture of Spiderman. A black and white picture overlaid with wavy bands of colour, presumably supposed to depict the amazing effect of Rimmel's 'Ultracolour' make-up. I think what it really depicts is a pretty cheap advertising budget, but let's not be too harsh.

Judging from the wrinkly costume, I think this is a still from the 1970s TV series of Spiderman. (I thought that was where the theme tune 'Spiderman, Spiderman, Does whatever a spider can!' etc. came from, but I now discover that was the cartoon. You can see both opening themes here.)

Not only was the TV series made before there was CGI, I think it was made before there was Lycra, so poor Spidey never looked quite right in his costume. Nor did he have the same muscles as the Toby Maguire version. So quite why they thought he would appeal to the buyers of Rimmel make-up, I'm not sure. I think the overlap of make-up customers and Spiderman fans would have been pretty small back then. Basically, it was just me.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Stratosphere Soda

Today's object is a fine piece of Las Vegas kitsch from the wonderful Stratosphere Hotel. As you can see, the most notable thing about the Stratosphere is the amazing tower. I love looking at the view from high places, and I think the observation deck at the top was my favourite place in Las Vegas.

Being Las Vegas, there is rather more than just an observation deck - there are thrill rides too, including a roller coaster called Big Shot that goes around the top of the tower.

And here we see that ride recreated in the form of a plastic drink straw...

Yes, you can get your Coca-Cola in an enormous plastic container shaped like the Stratosphere Tower! Completely bonkers and totally marvellous. I think there should be more drink containers in the shape of famous landmarks.

Although, come to think of it, I do already have a bottle of absinthe in the shape of the Eiffel Tower. Oh dear, I'd better not start another collection...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Floats Like a Butterfly, Stings Like a Bee

This butterfly is a killing machine. In case you have any doubt, it's called the "SureKill". It tells you it 'Kills Moths'. It tells you it 'Kills Flies'. Then just in case there was any residual scrap of doubt in your mind, it tells you it 'Kills Flies and Moths'. OK, I get it, it kills things!

It is just a thin piece of card, about 5 or 6 inches across, which presumably was impregnated with DDT. DDT was banned in most countries in the 1970s, but not until 1984 in the UK. I have had this card for years, and have always assumed that it was so old that there could be no trace of poison in it. However, writing this post has made me look up the information on DDT, and I am now slightly worried about having this thing lying around the place. I think I might just go and put it in a plastic bag...

Friday, 11 May 2012

Friday Postcards - Looking for Love

What the blinkin' heck is going on here?? These two postcards are very strange indeed.

On the left, we have Exhibit A.  A man in a see-through T-shirt plays his electric guitar in the middle of a forest. How does that work? And far from 'looking for love', he appears to be completely oblivious to the young lady photoshopped in front of him.

Exhibit B, on the right is a montage. Well, 'montage' is putting it kindly. 'Hotch-potch' is perhaps more to the point. A man with frightening biceps appears in the sky, while a girl looks coyly out from a star, and another girl on a grassy hill, presses her hand up against an invisible window pane.

I can almost hear that guitar solo... wah wah wah waaah, looking for love...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

A Treasure Trove of Beautiful Objects

Old craft books are very often a 'treasure trove of ideas', as this one purports to be. However, I'm not sure that this one achieves its aim to "transform packing materials as if by magic into...a hundred beautiful objects".

The frontispiece is not very reassuring in that regard....
These strange masks certainly place the book very definitely in the early 1970s. Is the next one based on a young Billy Connolly?
But the Big Yin is one of the more advanced projects. Let's start at the beginning, with the introduction.
Well how inspiring! All we need is a little imagination, and ordinary packaging materials, like a tray for fruit can be transformed into... a tray for fuit. Or, as the book calls it, a "Fruit Salver (a present for mother)".
Lucky old Mum! OK, well.... painting a polystyrene fruit tray is just the start. There are the lovely Japanese lanterns...
The stunningly futuristic bedside lamp....
A lightbulb inside all those egg boxes painted with gold spray paint? Not so much a bedside lamp as a fire hazard? Or death trap?

I shouldn't be so negative, should I? Let's enjoy the imaginative possibilities, and look at all the fun children can have with this craft. Here's a child having fun...
Well, I think he or she is having fun. It's a bit hard to tell, to be honest. The elephant mask is made from the "moulded cardboard packing for three bottles of champagne". Yes, making playful items from packaging costs nothing - you don't need to be rich to have this much fun! Oh, wait, yes you do.

The next item is made entirely from cardboard, and is called "Collapsible Table". I think they may have identified a design flaw right there...
The last three items are wonderful examples of the power of a child's imagination. Seriously, you would have to have an extremely powerful imagination to appreciate these painted eggbox fragments as the playthings they pretend to be. 
 "The bathyscape"
"Prehistoric beasts"

"Monorail train"
 As the book says, "their origins...won't prevent their astonishing you!"

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Curious Friends - Daddy Saddle

Today's truly astonishing object comes from the collection of ItaliaIrish who shares his wonderful photos on Flickr. Yes, you read it right, it's a 'Daddy Saddle'.

Oh my word, I just don't where to begin. Did they really sell these? Actually, now I think about it, I can imagine a few sadistic Mummies buying one of these, just to get Junior off her back and on to Daddy's.
'Sorry darling, the saddle is for Daddies only - it just doesn't work for Mummies!'

The text in the ad below reads-
'Giddeyup, ole Daddy! For hours of the most exciting fun any child and parent ever had playing together. Real-looking saddle with horn, stirrups, girth, and real "tooled-leather" Western trim. Vinyl skim coat over foam rubber looks like real leather. Fits any size Daddy.'

Eeek! Can you imagine how sweaty Daddy is going to be after hours of fun wearing a vinyl leatherette saddle? With an over-excited toddler on top? Thank goodness it's washable!
And look at the poor girl bottom left, who has to make do with a cardboard box. I can't imagine she's going to have hours of fun...

I take my hat off to the Kenner Toy Company for coming up with such a bonkers idea, AND calling it a 'Daddy Saddle'. Of course, the thing that really gets me about the name, is that it sounds like some sort of kinky sex toy. Oh come on, admit it! You were thinking the same thing too!

Many thanks to ItaliaIrish, who originally posted these photos on Flickr.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Monkey Brooch

If money was no object, I would love to collect novelty jewellery. There are some marvellous examples out there, and their weird novelty seems at odds with the supposed purpose of jewellery to enhance the wearer. 

I have a few pieces though, like this wonderful old brooch, with its three cheeky monkeys dangling from it. Why is the middle one naked, when the others have clothes on? And why do the others have clothes on anyway? And more to point, why is the one on the left smoking a cigar?

It seems an odd choice for a brooch, all round. Maybe an organ grinder had it specially made for his girlfriend. "Every time you see the monkeys, you'll think of me..."

Monday, 7 May 2012

Glastonbury the Knitted Pig

I have a soft spot for any strangely knitted soft toy. (And I don't think I'm alone - what about the popularity of Harry Hill's knitted character?) I picked up this knitted character at a fete or some such place, where his lopsided features made me laugh.

I should, of course, appreciate that some well-meaning soul has put a lot of work into this creation to raise money for charity. But then again, have they? Really? You see, if you were spending a lot of time over your knitted pig, would you give him three nostrils? And wouldn't you try to make him a bit less... weird looking?

But then again, I'm glad they didn't, because then he wouldn't be quite the character he is. Mr Kitsch and I have kept him around the place for the last 15 years at least. And we called him Glastonbury because... well, Mr Kitsch thinks we bought him in Glastonbury and I think it was because the Glastonbury festival was on at the time. It's just lost in the mists of time...

Friday, 4 May 2012

Friday Postcard - With My Little Ukelele in My Hand

I know what you're thinking. Do I own more strange postcards of dolls and soft toys than a grown woman should? We-ell, I think by now, you know the answer to that one. Yes, that's right - it's not possible to have too many!

So here's another classic. I like the hint of 'tropical island' they've added with that palm frond at the back, and the way the boy is 'playing' that guitar. A-one, a-two, a-one, two, three, four!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Tea for Two

I am extremely fond of vintage children's china. I don't know why all china isn't decorated with bunnies and bears and nursey rhyme characters. I'm sure the world would be a jollier place if it was.  Here are a couple of pieces from my large collection. I think they were parts of the same set. The little cup portrays Mummy Bear washing Baby Bear with an elephant looking on. The words read 'You dirty boy'. On the saucer, a golly is riding in a cart pulled by a pig. All very ordinary, you may say.

And I would agree. It's the scene on the teapot that really intrigues me.
The caption says 'Sweethearts', and there are two bunnies arm-in-arm under an umbrella. How sweet, indeed. But how remarkable for a child's teaset from the 1930s, that these are two boy bunnies. I don't think there's any doubt, is there? Unless the one on the right is a cross-dressing girl bunny? I keep wondering whether some avant-garde children's illustrator was striking a blow for gay rights. Or was the caption put on by mistake? Whatever the story behind it, it's a charming little teapot.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Curious Friend - Kylie's Apple Doll

 Today's Curious Object comes from Kylie of Lucy Violet Vintage
I'm thinking this blog post should have some sort of warning. 'Contains an object of a disturbing nature', perhaps. Or 'Not suitable for those of a squeamish disposition'.

You see, an Apple Doll sounds rather sweet and lovely, doesn't it?

But the reality is somewhat different...

Good grief, maybe the close-up was a mistake.

Hmm..Not really much better.

You have to wonder at it. Imagine, there you are in Tasmania, with all those Tasmanian apples and timbers. What do you make? A wooden crate of apples? No, a scary doll, with no face, just a blackened and withered apple for a head. But you still put her in a pretty dress and bonnet.

And did the 'Early Settler' children play with these frightening objects? Heavens, Australia must have been a tough place back then!
'There is none other quite like it'. No indeedy. As Kylie wonders in her original post about this doll, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Many thanks to Kylie for sending me her curious doll photo. Please do contact me by comment or email, if you have any curious objects you think might fit in here!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

As Recommended by a Doctor

Yes, you read it right - it's cola flavour toothpaste! And in case you're not sure whether that's a good idea, the whole thing is given an air of medical authority by the character on the tube  - Dr Mopp.

It doesn't sound like the best taste for toothpaste, but I guess it was meant to tempt children. Perhaps now they might have chicken nugget flavour?

I was very fond of Camberwick Green when I was little, and I can actually remember this toothpaste. Mainly I remember wanting it all the time, and not getting it. I think my mum eventually humoured me and I got it just the once. My memory is that it was strawberry flavour. This may have been the case, as it appears there were various flavours and lots of characters on the tubes. Take a look here.
The illustration style on the packet is lovely, too, isn't it?