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Archive for the ‘Card games’ Category

Flights Of Fancy : Alison Fyfe

In Alison Fyfe, board games, Card games, commercial artist, Kiwiana, The Sunshine Club on August 3, 2013 at 10.46

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe - box front copy

The exterior design of the snap set box, believed to have been designed in the first half of the 1950s.

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A Kakariki with a parasol balances on a tightrope. A jaunty Pukeko wobbles on shiny leather boots with his hunting gun; and a studious, spinsterish White-eye in perky red pumps shows off her frock creations in an atelier. I have wanted to get this card set for a very long time because I love the wonderful, whimsical interpretation of native New Zealand birds. They are a unique rendering of something completely endemic to the country – and in that sense, this item qualifies as true Kiwiana.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Kiwi Bob

This set of 36 cards with nine different designs come up for sale  perhaps  every couple of years at most – and are hard enough to get, especially a complete set –  that they were included in a rare book auction earlier this year.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Clarey Clown

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Miss White-eye

Although Alison Fyfe’s name is boldly emblazoned on the box – next to nothing is available on her life before or after this game was produced, so we do not know whether she perhaps had a career as a commercial artist (highly likely) or designed any further products for anyone else. No manufacturer is noted on the box, so it is possible they were even produced independently for sale – her father and brother were lifelong commercial travellers. However a card inside makes mention of another Happy Families game of animals in fancy dress, so we can assume she did illustrate at least one other, which has not turned up yet that I know of – but someone must have one somewhere, and I would love to see it eventually.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Bell Bottom Joe

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Peter Pukeko

Alison’s grandfather Robert Fyfe originated from Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, Scotland. He married New Zealand-born Annie Clark in Kakanui, near Oamaru in 1886 where he had been settled for at least a couple of years beforehand. This was a heavily agricultural area with rich volcanic soil and a busy port. The couple remained here until at least 1890, but by late 1891 the family were living at Hope Street, central Dunedin. By late 1893 were back again at their Sea View Villa property at Kakanui.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe - box flattened copy

Flattened snap set box showing front and back, and instruction cards – indicating that at least one more set was designed by Fyfe.

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New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Pigeon Mayor

In the 1910s, the Fyfe family were living in Mornington, at 1 Eglinton Road to the south-east of the Dunedin hub, where they remained until at least the mid-1920s. The couple had five children – and Alison’s father was Robert Edgar Fyfe (1893-1970), who was single at the time he enlisted in WWI, with the Otago Infantry Battalion and left for Suez, Egypt in October 1914. By June 1916 he had been wounded for a second time and again chose to stay with his unit. At this point he had been promoted to Company Sergeant-Major. By November 1918 he was promoted to second lieutenant, for conspicuous gallantry and good leadership. the London Gazette, of 7 November, 1918 notes he “…led his platoon with great dash on the flank of the enemy, throughout operations he displayed great courage and qualities of leadership of a high order.”

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Tui Teacher

At some point between 1919 and 1922 he made his way to Auckland, where he met and married Jessie Bruce Buchanan (1899-1974) in 1923, and in the late 1920s they were residing at Saltburn Road, Milford with Robert working as a salesman (he continued to work in this field for the rest of his career). The family settled on the North Shore of Auckland near Jessie’s parents who had their homestead “Whare Oki Oki’ in Clifton Road. Alison was born in 1927, and also had one younger brother – Robert Bruce Fyfe (1930-2007).

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe - Fanny Ballerina

She attended Takapuna Grammar School in Belmont, where the family moved in the early-mid 1930s to Harrison Road (they stayed here until the mid 1950s). She won a cup in the swimming carnival of February 1942, but out of the pool Alison’s artistic talent became apparent early -winning her in December of that year the headmaster’s special prize for drawing. She had previously entered a number of painting competitions as a youngster – amongst them the “Seen In a Woodland Glade ” competition in which she was awarded a green certificate in March 1939, but prior to that she was a prize winner in the Auckland Star’s “Valentine Painting” competition, of February 1939.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe 1 Percy Penguin

Most telling I thought, was her membership to The Sunshine Club. I am not sure exactly what it had its basis in – but it was likely a social group of the sort that was often formed around popular radio shows of the time. Alison joined the Karakas of Takapuna faction. Other sub-groups of the time were the playfully named “Kowhai Kingfishers”, the “Cuckoo Club”, “White Feather Clan”, the “Silver wings”, and “Parakeet Club”, amongst others. I have no doubt this later influenced her fanciful ornithological illustration work. There are also strong influences from Avis Acres’s work; the author of the Hutu and Kawa series of children’s books of the Fifties – with their exquisite illustrations of birds and their humanesque activities and adventures. Some comparing the two may dub Fyfe a second rate version; however I don’t entirely believe this is the case. Fyf’e’s work may not have been quite as skilled or finely rendered- but both are fairly different in approach, in that Acres focussed on a completely natural, contained fantasy world – whereas Fyfe’s concepts were more pop workaday observations with the natural passing into the man-made realm and being placed in human situations.

Winning Hearts competition EDIT  copy

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Fyfe wins one of the prizes in the Valentine Painting competition, Auckland Star,  22 February 1939. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

 

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Alison Bruce Fyfe appears once in the electoral rolls living on the North Shore of Auckland in 1949, living at 7 Harrison Avenue with her parents. In 1954 Robert and Jessie have moved to Walter Street, Hauraki, North Shore, Auckland – and Alison is no longer with them. The only further hint on her life is a possible match in Australian records of a Miss A B Fyfe, the correct age, leaving London port and arriving to Melbourne in 1952 – it’s likely that as so many girls of that era did, particularly those with a creative bent – she went off to do her “grand tour” of Europe.

New Zealand Birds Snap - Alison Fyfe - back  copy

This design of an adventuring Kiwi in a hat features on the reverse of all the cards.

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And then, she disappears from the records, likely having married. Without being able to find any information on her marriage due to privacy, it’s unlikely we will ever know anything further. It was common for artists to use a nom de plume, especially for women who had established a career before marriage and the inevitable surname change. However the fact that she used her maiden name means the cards were likely produced in the first half of the 1950s. In conclusion, I know far more about Alison Fyfe’s family than I know about her work. Maybe a relative, or someone else that knew her – will put their hand up in time.

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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2013. All rights reserved.

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A Dated Pastime

In Bliss detergent, Card games, Coopers Fresh Aire, Crest Fine Foods, D H Brown & Son Ltd, Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd, Four Square, Four Square Supermarkets, Games, Gregg & Co, Gregg's, Grocery Archaeology, Lushus Jelly, Marmite, Mono wax paper, N W Stevens, Nugget shoe polish, Rawakelle tea, Reckitt and Colman, Red Band Biscottes, Sanitarium Health Foods, The Kiwi Polish Co Ltd, Vi-Max cereal, Vita-Brits cereal on March 20, 2013 at 10.46

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - FOUR SQUARE  copy

Trying to date items can be a difficult prospect but I am quite good at it – I have a sort of “sixth sense” when it comes to this task. I set myself to it by “zooming in”- I kind of squint my eyes, and really focus hard. It takes a while but I can usually get an item down to a three year period, and sometimes even down to the correct year without knowing much about it. I guess it is just being a highly visual person with an almost photographic memory who has been collecting for decades. It goes in and pretty much just lodges there forever. Apparently I have “a mind like a steel trap”. Which can be a great thing – but on the other hand, there are events you’d probably rather forget. Anyway, moving right along…

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s -MARMITE copy

As much as I have a vast storehouse in my cranium (although I still think I know very little and have a lot to learn) and a huge collection of images and books to draw on – sometimes it is just no help.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - VITA-BRITS copy

Point in case is this snap set that Foodstuffs (N.Z. ) Ltd , owner of many brands which I previously covered here, issued as a (presumably) give-away promotional item – something they did a lot of to promote their business over the years (I cover all that in the linked article). Back in the day all kinds of card games were a very popular pastime. I’m not sure when they started to fall out of favour, but I’m taking a guess at the early 1980s – coincidentally around the time that computer games popularised – small hand-held consoles like Donkey Kong were a “must have” for us kids and probably the death knell of more manual entertainment.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - MONO  copy

This particular set was issued for Four Square supermarkets – but this is not the only promotional card set they did – there were two happy families sets over the years – one which I think was done in the late 1950s (I’ll get to that further on) and another one around 1981 (which I have posted on a few times over the last couple of years as I make my way through restoring and exploring each set).

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - BLISS  copy

Anyway, with the one I showcase here – I am really not sure on exactly when it was produced – you would think with over ten different products it would not be so hard to work out with their combined company histories. Not the case.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - VI-MAX copy

Many of these products had already been around for decades and had changed little – subtle adjustments to packaging can be a good indicator of dates. However the design of Nugget polish featured, for instance – is of little help when it comes to narrowing the date as the design was barely modified over decades and was in use through the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and into the early 1960s.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - RAWAKELLE copy

One telling point which helps me “arrange” the timeline is that Foodstuffs issued one of the happy families game sets around this time – I believe for a number reasons just previous to the snap set coming out.

4 square happy families cards early 1960s 1961-1967 (2) copy

Some of the cards from the slightly earlier happy families set issued by foodstuffs in the late 1950s, but featuring many of the same products.

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four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - RED BAND  copy

Why do I think that? Because unlike the snap set – it features three products that have some clues that help me date it as such – and those are Crest canned foods, Jojo jelly crystals, and Rawakelle tea.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - GREGG'S copy

I know that Crest Fine Foods was sold in 1959 and the logo was being changed very shortly before that date. In fact I have some of the labels where the art department for Butland Industries has painted out the old logo and pasted a new one over it – so “in transition” at this point. The happy families set shows the old logo . A photo of a Woolworths store of 1964 shows the logo fully changed over. The snap set shows the new logo as well as a completely new can design for tinned peaches.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - CREST  copy

Also, Rawakelle tea, which is also featured, was like Pam’s a Four Square/ Foodstuffs (New Zealand) Limited brand that was launched in 1957 . Jojo jelly, also featured, was launched in 1958 by N W Stevens/The Kiwi Polish Co Ltd that also produced Lushus (many baby boomers will remember this very popular jelly crystal brand) as well as a number of other desserts.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - COOPER FRESHAIRE copy

So the happy family set was produced after 1957 and likely before 1960.

And where does that put me with dating the snap set?

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - NUGGET  copy

The snap set features a new design for Crest peaches so that’s my cut-off date on the lower end of the scale. It’s also worth noting that in the meantime since the happy families set had been issued – the Rawakelle packet had been the recipient of a makeover – but not wildly different. the only 1960s image I have seen of Cooper’s Fresh Aire is a  January 1962 ad  in which the can design seems to have been revised from what appears on the snap card. The product was definitely available by 1961 as exemplified by an ad in the New Zealand Film archive. This was still quite early days for television and the fact that they went to the effort to make an ad in this medium indicates it was a new product on the market and they wanted to make a splash.

snap box  copy

Outside of the early 1960s snap set box, a bit worse for wear.

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four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - SNAP

So in summary, I would date the snap set at some time between 1960 and January 1962. That gives us the answer – probably 1961. If you asked me on first glance to pick an era, I would have said 1950s. If you showed me the two together, I would say that the snap set was issued before the other. But it goes to show if you really concentrate and try to figure it out with some information that has been gathered to help – the facts don’t lie!
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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2013. All rights reserved.