Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sepia Saturday 2/13/10 – or Dad’s Photos Continued

Howdy, folks, & welcome to Sepia Saturday, Robert Frost’s Banjo annex. I’ve been checking out the old photos on some favorite blogs over the past few Saturdays & feeling a little chagrined that I’d used up my store of Dad’s Photos—photographs my father took in the 1930s & very early 1940s—before this event hit blogland.

But as is so often the case, it turned out I was mistaken—there are more photos! & in fact it sounds like I may have access to even more during my visit to my mom next month. There’s a wrinkle, tho—typically, the Sepia Saturday posts are portraits or wedding pictures or group shots—they have recognizable people in them. Not so here—but the photos do tell a story.

In 1939 my dad took an excursion from his Vermont digs to New York City for the World’s Fair. Turns out he asked my mom to accompany him, but for whatever reason (she wasn’t clear on this when she told the story), she declined. It is true that they weren’t married until late in 1941—less than a month before Pearl Harbor Day.

So, where’s the story? My dad has passed on, so I can’t get the story of his time in New York City from him or from any of his friends or from his two brothers. They were all part of a generation that’s disappearing. This is the story: while I can’t tell you the details of his trip—I can only show you a handful of images that he found interesting enough to photograph—I can say that these photos, along with the many I posted in the Dad’s Photos series have given me some insight into a man who was very private & not forthcoming about his autobiography. But in these photos I’ve come to see a glimpse of an adventurous young man, & a young man who loved a good time—perhaps a bit more than was good for him, but still—he was only 25 when he took these shots, not even half my current age: very much different than the man I knew as a small child when he was well into his 40s.

Things happened: a World War, in which he served as a non-combatant in the Seabees, but still in some very harrowing conditions—the Seabees would come onto islands after the battles to build airfields & other infrastructure, & their camps were subject to air raids. He lost his best friend at an early age—because there were too many “good times” for that man. & I think, in retrospect, he wasn’t comfortable with children: not surprising, since he grew up in an atmosphere of poverty & neglect.

But here’s a young man from quaint early 20th century Bellows Falls, VT in the big city—New York, NY
for a World’s Fair. I can imagine the excitement, because at his best, well into his last years, my father was capable of a sort of delightful childi-like excitement that mostly counter-balanced the temper & the withdrawal. Today's three photos show me his excitement at Times Square.
I suppose in some sense any photograph is somehow a portrait of the photographer. I can see my dad in these.


  1. "I suppose in some sense any photograph is somehow a portrait of the photographer."

    Lovely, and very true. Great photos of Times Square. I'm glad you might not have reached the bottom of your treasure trove yet.

  2. great post and contribution to sepia saturday.... and a perfect addition. I think post of the players may put up wedding photos and group shots because those art often the types of photos that last and get passed down...many of the informal snapshots and vacation photos that our ancestors took probably got tossed or lost along the way.

    but every picture tells a story and these shots of your dad's trip to nyc in 1939 are fantastic - they remind me of some photos I have from a trip my mother took to nyc around the same time, I'll have to check them out and see if they pass muster, maybe some upcoming ss I share them.

    when I lived in new england I found that being a private person is highly prized quality and character trait

    I have so enjoyed you previous dad photos - am sure its cool to rerun some of those posts for your new readers

  3. I imagine he would have been quite awe-stricken by all the city lights and the hubbub of New York. I love any of your "Dad's Photos", John. You can post them all over again, if you run out (as far as I'm concerned).


  4. NYC can be a bit daunting on one's first visit, I know mine was! But your Dad did sound pretty adventurous. I was a submariner in the Navy and even we don't mess with the Seebees, heh...great pictures and I can only imagine what the next box will reveal...

    As an aside I've spent the better part of the day I.D.-ing photos and letters from my Mom's past. And it's good to still have her round to be able to tell me who's who :)

  5. Hi Jacqueline & Mouse & Kat & Subby

    Jacqueline: Isn't it something to see Times Square at that point in time? Thanks!

    Mouse: Thanks a lot. I think you're right about those groups/wedding pix. Sadly, we don't have many of those in the family--at least not that I'm familiar with. I'd love to see your mom's pix. You're right about the NE private thing--very true. Will consider re-posting some of Dad's pix too--thanks for the vote of confidence!

    Kat: Ditto my comment to Mouse about your vote for possibly re-posting some of Dad's Photos! He'd been living in the Boston area in 38, so it wouldn't have been as overwhelming as coming straight from VT. But tho I'm actually not a NYC adorer like some of my friends--it'll always be San Francisco first for me--there is an energy to that city I've never experienced elsewhere.

    Subby: Yes, I noticed that on your post--I think it's great you're working with your mom on old family photos! I hope to do some of that when I visit my mom next month. Funny about the SeaBees!

  6. John, best wishes to you in that regard. Heck, some of my pics I don't remember that well, heh...

  7. I'm always fascinated by old New York. It was so small then, comparatively. Wonderful photos of Times Square.

    I think everyone would love to see any of your dad's delightful pics, even if you've already posted them. I'm digging out all mine from old posts and reposting.

  8. Thanks for sharing in the Sepia Saturday. These types of pictures that contributing as much mystery as answers are always my favorite. He is surely revealing a bit of himself in those photos, even though he is behind the camera. My father held his cards close to his chest too, so I can relate to those mysteries.

  9. Hi Willow & Ladrón

    Willow: Yes, the smallness of NY scale struck me immediately when I saw these! Thanks for another vote on re-posts!

    Ladrón: Glad you enjoyed them--I'll be heading over to your blog straightaway to see your offering for SS.

  10. These are wonderful! I especially love to see photos of the sidewalks I'm on every week...and very much fun to speculate about your dad's trip. Thank you so much for a wonderful post!

  11. John

    I really like this post. These pictures are certainly your dad. It's just that he's out of shot, on the other side of the camera. But it's his eyes you're seeing through. Isn't that fantastic?

  12. Oh, I like that; "any photograph is somehow a portrait of the photographer."

    I never thought of it that way!

    But as a photographer, I can't for the life of me realize if it's completely true. Like asking a blind person if they can see their reflection in a mirror. I don't know. I assume it's there...


    Wonderful shots of New York. :)

    I always enjoyed your 'Dad's Photos' series.

    And I've always preferred Sepia to B&W photos, anyway.

    It gives more warmth.

  13. Hi Leah, Martin & Ginger

    Leah: That is fun, I expect, to see these photos as a New Yorker--glad you enjoyed this!

    Martin: Thanks for stopping by--yes, since starting to post his photos from the 30s last year I feel I've learned quite a bit about my father.

    Ginger: I love your reamrk: "Like asking a blind person if they can see their reflection in a mirror. I don't know. I assume it's there..." I too love the warm sepia tones; & glad you've enjoyed my dad's photos--there are more to come, tho based on popular opinion I also may rerun some I think were the best. I don't know if you know this, but I used three of his photos for cover art on the poetry book.

  14. A treat to see some old cityscapes!

  15. Hi Stephanie: Thanks for stopping by, & glad you enjoyed the photos!

  16. If I could have had taken the time I would have known more, but life seems so busy. Both parents are now gone and I just have to show the pictures. I guess the stories will never be but I enjoy trying to interpret what I am seeing. I think the New York City pictures are really great. The top one looks like the build that sits on the triangle block.

  17. Hi LD: Thanks for stopping by--yes, we always think we have time to learn stories, but often we don't. Still, photos really do tell a lot--they allow my mind to wander in my parents' youthful landscape & get some sense of what it was like. Enjoyed your post as well!


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