Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mr Evans, the Felixman of Echo Point

The Lillas family at Echo Point with the Mountain Devil 1960;
Ron Lillas, son Timothy, Robin Lillas (sister of the donor, Colin Slade)
John and Jim Low with their parents May and Basil, Echo Point, about 1954
Unknown


Jan Koperberg with her mother
Unknown
Unknown


Unknown


Jim and Gladys Ryan on their honeymoon, Nov. 1950
Iris Cammack, Neil and Carol Roberts, Enid Schneider, c.1948
Image courtesy of Carol Roberts
Eileen, age 19 with her parents Elsie May &  Horace Kelly
from Peakhurst, NSW, 1952
Kindly donated by Stephen and Michael Kelly 


Eileen Kelly, 1952
Kindly donated by Stephen and Michael Kelly
Stephen Crawshaw with his cousin, 1952 


Dan Evans at Echo Point, 1950s
Mr Evans, the Felixman of Echo Point

Dan Evans, also called the Felixman, was a widely known local identity at Echo Point, Katoomba from the 1920s to the 1950s, with his Felix the Cat and later Mountain Devil props. Visitors, mainly families with children, would pose for a souvenir photograph which was developed on the spot. A number of these surviving photographs are in the Local Studies collection of the Blue Mountains City Library.

One early photo in the collection is a tintype, the rest are printed on photo paper and mounted in a card frame. Few facts of Dave Evans' life are known; he was apparently Welsh and lived in Darley St Katoomba, within walking distance of Echo Point. His income would have been highly seasonal and dependent on weather and holidays, never large enough to warrant a shop or staff and professional darkroom setup.

One witness says he would be at Echo Point taking pictures 'rain, hail or shine'; so his business address was right there in the open air where his customers were - what a workplace. A little draughty perhaps, but in the absence of customers one always has the view, or the mist, or both.

The early photos from the 1920s and 1930s show the child size Felix the Cat mannequin accompanying one or more children or family groups, some kids needed mother close by as their looks of apprehension suggest. The later images from the 1950s show the large Mountain Devil doll. This may be a response to the commercial success of Felix and concern with copyright.

The majority of his surviving photographs are taken at Echo Point and they cover few other subjects but tourist portraits; although he may possibly have also operated at the Scenic Railway and there is a group portrait of working men at the Hydro Majestic with a Felix figure. He was quite unlike a photographer such as Harry Phillips who took few intimate photographs and published widely and commercially on landscape subjects.

The 1891 Welsh Census shows Dan was born the second of seven siblings about 1883 in Ferndale (Glynrhedynog), Glamorgan, Wales; his father, William, was a miner and his mother was Naomi Owens.  Dan emigrated to Australia about 1927 and is shown as a property owner in council’s rate records from 1937 – 1957, residing in “Cartref” Darley St, Katoomba, occupation - photographer. Records show he married Edith Anne Taylor, her second marriage, in 1932 at the Registrar General in Sydney, their residence was in Liverpool St in the inner City. Dan had been previously married in Wales to a Minnie Griffiths in about 1905. A 1933 commercial directory lists him as D Evans, photographer of Katoomba.

In April 1932 the Blue Mountains Times newspaper reported that Mr Evans, the Felixman at Echo Point, had complained to Katoomba Council of unlicensed persons plying a somewhat similar business without paying a fee. Katoomba shopkeepers were also complaining of the many street musicians collecting from passers by – they had ‘become so common as to be quite a nuisance’. The Great Depression produced many unemployed men who tried their hand at busking for a few coins.


Dan died in Katoomba Hospital in October 1961, aged 78 years and was cremated at Rookwood Crematorium, the informant was his older brother William from Newport in Victoria. In 1962 the ‘late D Evans’ photographic license was transferred to Souvenir Snapshots of Katoomba.

It is likely that Dan retained his Welsh lilt all his life: "Sit you down by your Mam and I will take your photograph, now look you at the dicky bird!"
Links

Ferndale - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferndale,_Rhondda_Cynon_Taf

1932 'Katoomba Council', The Blue Mountains Times (Katoomba, NSW : 1931 - 1937), 8 April, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jan 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article194856771

Thanks to the many people who have donated copies, or originals, of their family photos to the Blue Mountains City Library, Local Studies Collection. Without their kindness, this page would be the poorer. 

Please contact the author if you have more information about Dan Evans The Felixman, or have any of his photos you would like to donate as originals or copies.


© 2009 Blue Mountains City Library, revised 2016.

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian

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