Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sepia Saturday 6/5/10

Good morning & a happy Sepia Saturday to one & all.

In a continuation of my mother’s photo album, today I’m featuring my maternal grandmother, Inez Atkinson (née Putnam). Inez was the only one of my grandparents I ever knew—in fact, she lived with us since before I was born in 1956 until her death in the summer of 1967. I have strong memories of her, but I was a child—less than 11 years old when she died, & she was in a hospital for some time during the spring & summer of ’67. What do I recall?

Inez liked to walk; before the feebleness of old age really took its toll, she would walk along the highway that ran past our house. It was not so much traveled in those days; I actually remember when I was very young running to the window to see cars passing—interestingly enough, not unlike the road I currently lived on (& I believe the Saxtons River Rd also was unpaved when I was a toddler). She also loved to collect rocks—she kept part of her colelction in a wooden box in her bedroom. In fact, she would even patrol our unpaved driveway with her stout hickory cane in hand, looking for more specimens. I still have her Golden Nature Guide of Rocks & Minerals.

She liked to visit antique shops—there was one in Westminster Station that we often
frequented—it was run by an older gentleman named Graham, & it had the most delightfully musty odor. I don’t know what she purchased—I actually think Mr Graham may have sold some rocks—but I know there were old postcards there & I was fascinated by them—another old postcard connection relating to my mom’s side of the family.

I remember too that she used to recite “Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross” while dandling me on her knee. On the other hand, she often seemed remote, & I seem to recall she had a temper. Of course, she was elderly when I knew her & for the last few years, in poor health that eventually degenerated into a form of senility that seemed quite frightening to a child.

What was Inez like as a young woman? I know very little about her younger life. I know she married a man much older than her; she was born in 1881, while my maternal grandfather, Joseph Atkinson was born in 1868. My mother doesn’t speak of her too much—I sense there was conflict, & that my grandmother may not have been “maternal” in a traditional way. I do know she spent all of her life in Massachusetts, except for the years she lived in Vermont toward the end of her life—& even then, she often spent summers in Quincy, Massachusetts with my Uncle Joe; this continued until she couldn’t travel.

She seems well put together in these photos, if a bit stern of aspect. Yet there’s a warm smile in the picture below with a young Vera to the left & her husband, Joseph to the right. Based on similarities to other pictures, that snapshot may have been taken in 1913—it was almost certainly taken before my mother was born in early 1916.

Inez was very Victorian in her morals—I believe my mother & Uncle Joe had quite a strict upbringing, & I know Inez was not altogether keen on my father—he was from a lower class, Irish in large part, & born Catholic—all strikes against him, I believe, in her book. Truth be told, he was also quite a hell-raiser in his youth, so perhaps some of Inez’ misgivings can be forgiven!

Hope you enjoyed the photos; I should note that I have a gig today, so I may be late in catching up on Sepia Saturday comrades. However, please be sure to check out other Sepia Saturday participants here.

Inez (L) & Joseph (R) with a stringer of fish; don’t know the man in the middle, nor did my mother
Vera, Inez, Joseph & ?, probably 1913


  1. Nice background of Inez and your memories are distinct including her recitation; funny how so many memorized those verses back in that young mothers today meorize or share verses? I think not.

  2. Wonderful photographs, thanks for sharing!

  3. es.she does have A Cheeky Smile on the bottom photo1
    I hope the gig goes well tonight.
    cheers From Tony.

  4. Inez is stunning in the winter photo, and oh! that hat! Intriguing, isn't it, when there appear to be family secrets.

  5. Hi Pat, Southwest Arkie, Tony & Enchanted Oak

    Pat: Thanks! I'll bet at least that not as many younger folk know that "Banbury Cross" rhyme.

    Southwest Arkie: Thanks for stopping by!

    Tony: Yes, indeed! It's a day gig--grand opening of a hair salon! We'll be on our way soon; thanks.

    Enchanted Oak: I do like that photo. & for better or worse, there are a lot of secrets on both sides of the family involving earlier generations.

  6. Oh for a time machine to go back and ask those questions that didn't seem important when we were young!

  7. She sounds like an interesting woman. And I used to recite Banbury Cross to my children from a nursery rhyme book.

  8. I have something in common with your Inez. I, too, used to recite the Banbury Cross rhyme and I both love and collect rocks. I really like the way you told her story; the charming glimpses into her life, the mystery, the hinted at secrets.

  9. Hi John, I so enjoyed your story. It is so true how most of us only knew our grands in their later years and only heaven know what they had gone through. I sometimes wonder how my grandchildren see us. I have always been considered a fun, mysterious grandmother and my children encouraged that to their children. I have thousands of pictures as opposed to the number of picture most of us have of our grandparent. Great post.

  10. Interesting photos. The one of the 4 people fascinated me the more I looked at it. The hat in the man's hand looks quite big - do you think he was holding her hat for her? Sorry, I get into these details when I start looking!

    So often old photos (like this one) serve to remind me that things don't change that much in a way, and that people are people, whatever era's clothes they wear.

  11. Hi folks: It's been a busy weekend with gigging yesterday--apologies for not responding to comments sooner! I'll be visiting everyone's Sepia Saturday posts today!

    Vicki: Yes, a time machine could be a very handy device!

    Meri: It is a great nursery rhyme--strange in the best sort of way.

    Nana Jo: How interesting! Banbury Cross lives on. Thanks.

    Queenmothermaw: I don't have children, but I do sometimes wonder how our nephews & nieces view my wife Eberle & me. Yes, I think in general that youth doesn't have a clear picture of what it takes to reach middle & older ages!

    Dominic: That's an interesting observation--it does look like a large hat. But I think Inez is holding a hat, too. Perhaps Joseph is holding the photog's hat! Thanks.

  12. Great post! I love your interpretation of Inez and her personality. What an intriguing character!

  13. Hi Neetzy: Thanks for stopping by--so glad you enjoyed it!

  14. Great photos John. There is something special about the ancestors we can just about remember from childhood (I equally had only one grandparent I can remember and she died when I was eleven). Far more than those we never knew, they get mixed up with our own memories of childhood and are even more difficult to "see" as individuals - particularly young individuals.

  15. Hi Alan: I think your observation about grandparents we knew in our youth is right on the money. I wonder if the "mythification" is more pronounced for folks such as you & me who only knew one grandparent.

  16. I enjoyed this post about your grandmother and the accompanying photos. Don't you sometimes wish you could go back in time and "see" your grandparents in their youth/younger years? Or have a little movie camera to watch the events that shaped them into the people we knew them to be when they were older? I sure do!

  17. You have some keen memories of your grandmother. I love how you describe the antique store you visited and how she "dandled" you on her knee to "Ride a Cock Horse". My grandmother used to do that too (she may even have sung the same song).

    These are some terrific photos. You are so lucky to have them!


  18. Hi Nancy & Kat

    Nancy: It would be interesting indeed, tho there's something satisfying to in a mix of deduction & imagination.

    Kat: Yes, I feel very fortunate to have these photos; & my grandmother did make a big impression. Thanks!


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