Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sepia Saturday 5/29/10

Happy Sepia Saturday, & happy holiday weekend both to blog comrades in the States & those in the UK. I’ve finally gotten to scanning some photos from the long-promised photo album of my mother’s, & by way of introducing these photos, I’d like to introduce you all to my Aunt Vera, my mother’s sister, tho considerably older, as is clear in the lead-off pic. My mother was born in February 1916, so that picture most obviously date from the ‘teens. The woman to the right, Inez, is my grandmother. There’s no information on who the two standing woman might be, but I’d hazard a guess that the one to the right might be myGreat-Aunt Arlene, of whom I wrote last week.

Vera is a legend—in my mind, at least, if in no one else’s. As is the case with the almost equally legendary Great-Au
nt Arlene, I had very little personal contact with Vera—I recall her visiting us when I was young, & I most certainly recall the many postcards she sent to my sister & me, many of which I still have—there’s no doubt that my love of post cards came from my Aunt Vera’s correspondence.

My love of the westernn US may have come from her in a roundabout way, too—because those
postcards came from the west—from Oregon, where she lived & from other places in the west (& Mexico) where she traveled. But as I understand it, Vera was an inveterate traveler—a restless spirit. She also sailed the Atlantic on a ship to Africa—the only woman on the crew (she served as a cook). Although I’ve never heard it said in so many words, I do believe she flounted convention, & I strongly suspect that her move to the west was an escape from the more constrained (topographically & otherwise) New England landscape. I’ve often wondered since I first experienced the west & felt its draw over 20 years ago, how Vera felt when she first encountered those large spaces.

Which brings me to another way that my Aunt Vera plays a large role in my psych
ic life. When she was entering her declining years in the early 1970s, she asked my mother to move west to Florence, Oregon where Vera lived to take care of her. While the move would have been in Vera’s interest, it also would have had some advantages, I think, for our family; but it wasn’t to be, & Vera passed away in 1977. It’s interesting—sometimes the things that don’t happen have as much impact as the things that do. That’s been the case several times throughout my life.

I really like the photo entitled “Vera-‘me’” & dated April 5, 1921. As a young woman, there’s an adventurous & assured air about Vera, just as I would have imagined; the winter photo of her with her mother Inez & my mom, Elizabeth, as an infant also speaks to that, I think, with the jaunty feather in her cap.

Hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know my Aunt Vera—& please check out other Sepia Saturday participants here.


  1. Wow, Vera was certainly an adventurous spirit and lived an extraordinary life.

    What a inspiration to have someone in the family who opened wide the doors of convention.

  2. Hi John, This is fascinating for all sorts of reasons, but the thing that struck me was your affinity with your Aunt Vera who was the person who ignited your love of old postcards. As you will see from my post this week I feel a similar affinity with my mothers' Uncle Fowler. I have this theory that the kind of personality trait that caused people to send and collect postcards in the early twentieth century drives bloggers today. I reckon both your Aunt Vera and old Fowler would have had blogs if they had lived in different times. Fascinating thoughts based on a fascinating post.

  3. I like your Aunt Vera -- she does, indeed, look the part of an adventurous spirit. What a story her life might be -- the cook on a ship part particularly appeals to me,

  4. Evidently, Vera was a free spirited woman. Cooking for the crew on a transatlantic voyage, in her day, must have been extraordinary.

    The mention of Vera's postcards from the west and your own affinity for the west, brings home the vastness of America to an island-dweller like me.

  5. Oh, how exciting to finally see your mother's photo album. From this debut I can tell we're in for a treat!
    Your Aunt Vera must have been quite a woman to sail on a ship all the way to Africa! I wonder what they were going there for? A mission, perhaps?

    Each of these photos has so much to tell us of those days with the style of clothes and hair and the landscape and structures. I enjoyed every bit of them!

    I'm sure you must have inherited your periodic "itchy feet" from your Aunt, John.


  6. She sounds like a free spirit, without a doubt. What must it have been like to be the only woman on that ship, heading off to unknown ports of call?

  7. Vera looks like so full of life. She sounds like a passionate, extraordinary woman. I think my grandmother, whom I wrote about today, would have found her a kindred spirit.

    That's a very pithy observation of yours that sometimes its the things that didn't happen ... the road not travelled ... that can affect us most.

  8. Loved meeting your folks. Isn't it great when the folks gave the names of those in the photographs.
    I have many that we don't know who they are. Nobody wrote on the front or back who they were.

  9. Vera is someone I would like. The composition of the first photo is wonderful. I love how Vera is the focal point, relaxed, with her arm outstretched. Beautiful photos, John.

  10. Hi everybody: Just getting back from playing at the local outdoor market & am pretty bushed--will be around to visit you all tomorrow!

    Barry: Yes, I do feel she really was an inspiration!

    Alan: That is an interesting point indeed. I'll look forward to reading your post!

    Vicki: I agree. I'll try to get more information from my mom. It would be good to tell more of her story!

    Martin: Yes, I think it really was extraordinary. Having just driven across the country a couple of months ago, I can say it is a big place!

    Kat: Thanks! It's taken me some time to organize in my mind how to present it, but I'm excited about it. I did discover that the photos can't be removed from the album pages without damage, so scanning is a bit of a challenge, but it's worth it. So good to see you (cyberwise!)

    Meri: Yes, as Vicki says, it would make a fine tale.

    Nana Jo: I look forward to reading about your grandmother! Yes, I do believe that thing about "the road not taken"--not in the sense of convention vs. non-conventionality (as Frost meant it), but simply choices--not always conscious & not always in our control; these things have a profound effect.

    Peggy: A number of photos in this album aren't written on & yes, it's a problem. Glad that many of them are!

    Willow: Yes, I wish I'd known her better too--but what I do know has an important place in my consciousness. I like that photo, too.

  11. Oh, I know I would have liked Vera. I love that picture of her too - the "me" Vera one. I also love that she was the only woman on the crew of a ship to Africa. Wow!

  12. I strongly suspect that her move to the west was an escape from the more constrained (topographically & otherwise) New England landscape.

    I like that the west has always seemed to be that way, and even these days it still feels like that (probably moreso to east coasters like myself).

    Great portrait of Vera. It feels just as important to know not only about the actual facts of someone's life, but also the ways they live in other people's minds.

  13. Vera did want to march to the beat of a different drum. I could see the west to be more exciting and a younger part of America's history. She would have liked that. Great story.

  14. Hi Christine, HKatz & LD: Again, sorry for my late replies--this has been a very busy weekend & I'm waaaay behind blog-wise!

    Christine: I truly believe she was a remarkable woman--glad you enjoyed this.

    HKatz: The west is different from the east--for one thing, the spaces are much different. As someone who spent the first 27 years of his life in Vermont, I was completely wowed when I first traveled in the west in the late 80s (was living in Virginia at that time), & knew almost instantly that the west was for me.

    LD: Yes, I think your observation about the west being younger was definitely true in the first half of the 20th century. Thanks!


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