Friday, February 29, 2008

A mysterious photo

I love this photo. A young man in a uniform, with his girl (wife? sister?) holding on to him while he looks away. There's the faithful dog in the foreground, the horse in the background, and the mysterious adobe wall behind them.

Who are they? I have no idea. The photo is from our family archives, so I assume I'm related to someone in the picture. The uniform suggests a military school rather than, say, the army, but I don't know. Her dress suggests late 19th or early 20th century. I'd love to know, but perhaps that would destroy the stories that I can make up in my head.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mom and Elizabeth

I love this photo. It shows Mom (on the left), her older sister Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's son Emory sitting at their feet. Mom and Elizabeth were very close, even though Elizabeth was some years older than Mom. Tootie will tell you how many.

Tootie, whose real name is Elizabeth and who now goes by Liz, was named after the Elizabeth in the picture, and Emory was named after Elizabeth and Mom's oldest brother. This is a practice that we still use in the family, with several kids and grandkids carrying the names of Mom's brothers and sisters.

In dating the picture, I'd have to do some very fancy guessing, but why not? I'm going to guess in the late 1920's. The hair styles and Mom's age seem to indicate that, along with Emory's age. If you look closely, you can see a hint of garter on Mom's left leg. Looking at the clothing, it's clear that they were dressed up for come occasion. The picture would have been taken at the Smith family home, possibly in Cutter, where Grandad had a ranch, and where Mom was born. Those hills in the background would have separated Cutter from Hot Springs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Two cute kids again

I had a real good growing-up, and part of that was because of Tootie. She was always there, no matter where we were, and we moved around a lot. Actually, the family, especially Mom, Tootie, and I, were very tight. That meant that when we moved, we took our support group with us. It didn't matter too much how well we fit into the community, because we always had each other. Also, I have to admit, since we were Mormon, we always had an extended family to slide into. Because we lived mostly in the outback, the congregations were usually small and they where happy to see us (They were happy to see anybody).
So, here we are, Tootie and I. I don't know where it is. I see an old car in the background, and I estimate that I'm about seven (I'm not wearing glasses). But it didn't matter where we are. It was Tootie and me, "She's not heavy, she's my sister," type thing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My young mother

Mom always was young, even when she was in her 60's. She'd dance around the kitchen in a modified Charleston, waving a spoon and saying "Tcha tcha tcha," to whatever tune she had in mind. In this picture, my young mother is actually young. It was taken, I'd say, in the early 30's, when she would have been sixteen or seventeen. Note the coquettish tilt of the head, the draped fur, the lines of the dress, the neat shoes. The strong-jawed person beside her is, I believe, my uncle Clay (Help me on this Tootie). And, don't you just love the car?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mom's parents

The photo is of my grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary. Behind them is a set of pictures taken on their wedding day. Grandad is handsome in his cookieduster mustache, and Grandma has a very prim Gibson girl look. She was about four years older than he was, and he lied about his age to make up for it. There are many stories about Grandad, who was a bit of a loose cannon. One of my favorites is the time he bought some mules and paid for them with a rubber check. The sellers got unhappy about that, kidnapped Grandma, my mom, and my uncle Nate and held them till Grandad came up with the cash. I guess they thought the courts were too slow. Grandma was small but a real pepperpot, and I think she made her kidnappers sorry they every messed with her. Apparently, she gave them a tonguelashing the entire time they had her. And it wasn't politically correct, either.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A clean-cut trio

I wish I knew exactly when this picture was taken. Judging from the hairstyles, I'd suspect in the late 40's or early 50's. Tootie will know. It's in a nice cardboard frame with a hinged back on it, so you can fold it up and it stays nice. It was always important to Mom that the family history be represented. I don't know if this was a conscious decision or if she simply felt a need to have photos taken. What is impressive about this photo is that it's obviously a studio shot, and that would have been expensive, and we didn't have a lot of money. My feeling is that Mom would have saved a dollar here, a dime there, in order to save enough to get the picture taken. In those days, family photos weren't put on the wall. They were tucked away in a drawer. Then, on special occasions, when family came to visit from Amarillo, we would haul out all the pictures, the adults would go slowly through each one, commenting at length, and the kids would suffer in fidgety silence.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The family in 1955

I think this picture was taken in the summer of 1955, when we made a trip from Alaska to the lower 48 (It was called "going outside"). I was 15, Tootie 14. A couple of things about Dad (aside from the fact that he's missing the top of his head). He always carried a little notebook in his shirt pocket. I still have one, full of notations, measurements, times and dates. Second, if you look at his belt, you'll note that the buckle is on the side, not on the front. Folklorists tell us that in one of his movies, John Wayne's belt buckle slipped around to the side, and that started a fad. Dad apparantly liked it, because that's the way he wore his belt. I tried to do it that way because he did, but it didn't take. Tootie is wearing a sailor cap. I think we shared it, but when I wore it, I gave it a sailor's crush, so eventually I think she just took it over. I'm wearing a haircut called a "Princeton," flat and short on top, long and swept back on the sides. It required a substantial investment in hair-care products. Mom was one of the first people I remember to wear sunglasses a lot. Most people just squinted. With pictures like this, I always wonder, "Who took it?" There's a whole story behind that question.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The family in Washington?

In the early 1940's, Dad worked construction in the Pacific northwest. The picture is, I believe, from the time when we lived in a part of Vancouver, Washington
called MacLaughlin Heights (I may have gotten the spelling
wrong). Tootie and I have tried to find the house, but I
suspect that it is long gone. It was a small house, very cosy,
though it seemed large enough for me. One memory I have
of this house is that mom would put us to sleep at night (T and I slept in the same bed) by reading poetry to us. I can still hear her reading The Highwayman and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. She put a lot of drama into the poetry. I kept wanting the highwayman to get away, but he always got killed in the end. Judging from the photos, I was somewhere around four, and T was 2 1/2. On the back of the photo mom had written "Lou, Jimmie, Ronnie, and Elizabeth Ann." So, why does T get two names?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mom in her Parka

When we lived in Alaska, we didn't have a lot of spare change, although mom and dad worked hard to make sure that Tootie and I weren't aware we were poor. One winter, we hunted snowshoe rabbits. We tanned the skins and made mittens; we ate the meat. I thought it was a neat adventure in living off the land. Mom and dad probably thought it was a chore but one way to get by. Mom was handy with a sewing machine, and she made clothing for us, including winter clothing. I got a warm coat and mom made a fur-lined hood for me. She also made a parka for herself, the one in the picture. I think the body of the coat was an old fox fur, and she added the hood and the trim. She insisted that the proper pronunciation was "parky," though I never did hear anyone else call it that. Mom had a good sense of style and liked to look nice. She could look better on a shoestring than most people could with a handfull of cash.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dad's hats

One thing I remember about my dad is that he always wore hats. Later on, when my hairstyle came to be more and more like his (gone), I realized why he did it.

My earliest memories of dad's hats were of the fabric fedora work hats he always wore. The picture of him under the tree shows one. They were cotton, I think, stiff and rugged. I wish I could find one like it today.

Later, he switched to caps. But, and you can see this from the photos, he always wore them, hats or caps, cocked over one eye. Never straight. I don't think he favored one eye above the other, but always that slight tilt to the cap.

I've tried to wear hats and caps the way he did, but, frankly, it drives me crazy.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Swimming in a glacier lake

When we lived in Alaska, we would swim in the summer at a place called Falk's Lake. It was on the farm of the Falk family, and I guess they let everyone swim there. Mom would usually load up the Hudson with a bunch of kids from Eklutna, the tiny community where we lived, and lug us there. She was the only mom who did this, by the way. The water was always very cold, very cold, but Tootie would dive right in. She was first in, last out. I took a lot longer to get in, but once in, was fine. I remember one time a friend of ours came out of the lake with a headache. The next day, he was paralyzed. In those days, summer was polio season, and everybody worried about it.