TONY 2nd grade

Organized group photos can be fun or downright boring and forgettable. The best are usually of children because they have yet to learn how to veil their personality. Class photos are often pretty good unless the shot is taken at such a distance as to just look like a pyramid of humanity with no discernible faces.

I often find when looking at class photos, if they're of a period when I was also in school, I feel like I recognize some of the kids. I don't know who these children are but because of the clothing and hairstyles they look like the same kids who were in my class thousands of miles away. I can pick out the class nerd, the class clown, teacher's pet, and so on. But if it's a photo out of my time period comfort zone they just look foreign to me as in the second photo below. 

There are a lot of life stories in this photo and I'll never know any of them. Written on the back is:

        Tony 2nd grade

No indication as to which one might be Tony. And I love the children waiting to the left in the background, waiting for their turn for their class shot. The photo is of little to no monetary value, but if you take the time to study the faces you'll find your mind coming up with stories and memories worth even more. 

Camellia Ave School_1956_tatteredandlost
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country school_tatteredandlost
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I'm guessing this was shot mid-1940s to mid-50s. A case of studied casualness.

As I've said before, I often see photos of strangers and instead see glimpses of someone famous. For me he looks like Montgomery Clift. Not as beautiful as Clift, but there's enough there that has me wondering if this fellow had the girls sighing at school because he looked like a movie star. Was he able to use this to his advantage or did he merely find it annoying? Did some doe eyed teenage girl look up at him with fluttering eyelashes and ever utter "Oh, Monty" much to his dismay? Then again, this might be one of those photos that doesn't really capture what a person looked like. Perhaps he actually looked more like Phil Silvers, except for this one shot. Being that there were no other shots of him available when I bought this I'll never know. For now he'll always be my Montgomery Clift teenager. 

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It's an incredibly beautiful spring day here and I'd like to be outside. And I'd like to be a kid taking full advantage of the day in a way only a kid can. For some reason I keep having the theme song from the tv show "Little House on the Prairie" looping through my brain. I see the credits with the little girl running down the hill amongst the wild flowers. And then I found this photo in my filing cabinet. 

When I first bought this vernacular photograph I remember thinking it looked staged, they looked like actors, certainly from "Little House..." which of course they're not. It all looked so perfect. I don't know if it's a school house or post office. Probably post office. For some reason the photo relaxes me. I think of this group gathering in the midday sun for the photo in a small town. No hustle, no bustle, no modern age. People tied to the seasons and the sun in the sky, not to a computer. I think that wicker chair is for me. See you later.

litte town_tatteredandlost
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I GUESS you had to be there

trailer w.ladder_tatteredandlost

I've been wondering this week what sort of a blogging post I would have done the other day when I was running a temperature of 102. Virus came in, virus went out. In the rubble I'm left with a confused brain and exhaustion. Trying to pick-up the pieces on jobs and make sense of all of it. Sort of like this Polaroid sent to me by my best friend. She gave little information other than "Florida" and "grandparents." It's one of those shots where you probably had to be there at the moment to get it. I'm thinking maybe taken for insurance purposes. Then again...maybe not. Trailers these days have pop-outs. So does this one. Trailers usually have ladders...on the back for easy roof access. This one...has a ladder...in front of the door! A prototype for today's modern trailer. 

What's amazing is that this photo was never thrown away. For some reason it's been kept for decades. I wonder when the story that went with it got lost? And so now I'll keep the photo. Someone else down the line will have to decide to toss it, but then they might wonder about the story and so on and so forth. This little Polaroid has outlasted whatever purpose it originally had.



I have an old photo album full of wonderful vernacular photographs that also contains a typed journal. The majority of the photos show two friends, Bill and Dick, who travelled all over the United States in 1914. They left San Francisco on May 5th and returned June 5th. During that month they traveled mostly by train across country arriving in Washington D.C. on May 12th. Below you will find a photo of Dick with a Mrs. Nolan, a sturdy woman if I ever saw one. Mrs. Nolan is referenced in the journal entry. It's fun seeing how formal the people dressed in contrast to the slobs most of us are today when traveling.

Mrs. Nolan and Dick see D.C._tatteredandlost

Mrs. Nola and Dick_tatteredandlost

Bill and Dick journal_tatteredandlost

Bill and Dick seemed to have remained friends for many years after the trip and the album contains photos of them with wives and children.

Though nothing particularly interesting seems to have happened on the trip, at least not by our 21st century voyeuristic standards, Bill and Dick did have a good time. It's fun to read the journal and look at the photos of the two of them standing in front of buildings/trees/water and sitting/standing near different modes of transportation. I've also used some of the photos in my Blurb book and will be including more in the next book.

I previously posted a photo from this album under the entry "Giddyup Ostrich."


SITTING AT THE CAFE with nothing to say

It's one of those days when it would be nice to just be sitting at a cafe watching people go by. Listening to the birds in the trees and watching the sparrows hop amongst the tables hunting for crumbs. The sounds of voices, conversations, noises from the kitchen behind me. No place to be and no hurry to get there.

On the back of this vernacular photograph it says:

        Olvera Street
        At a cafe—
        Jan 3, 1937

Olvera Street_tatteredandlost

For those who aren't acquainted with Olvera Street it's one of the oldest streets in Los Angeles. Click here and here to find out more.



It'll soon be spring. Hard to believe winter is almost over. It's been a mild winter where I live and we feared we'd get no rain at all. The state is under drought warnings and I have to wonder how much water we have in our well after the rains of a few weeks ago. I won't take it for granted.

Spring, when the weather begins to warm, the blossoms come out, and you can dance between the raindrops without fear of them turning into snow. Okay, so the weather here has been warm a lot this winter, the peach and nectarine trees have been in blossom for weeks, and we get snow once every maybe 20 years and we all go nuts running around with our cameras.

chasing rain_tatteredandlost
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These little boys are clearly enjoying walking in the rain somewhere in Japan. I know little to nothing about this photo, and what I do know is speculative.

A few years ago I went to an estate sale. It was a large house, Victorian style. It was quite beautiful out front, the interior not so much because it had been modernized and nothing flowed right. I bought a stack of photos, many of a young blond boy and his sister. I also bought wedding pictures of his parents. When I got them home I became fascinated with this family. Somewhere there had been wealth, I believe on the mother's side. I poured over the photos trying to gather evidence as to who this family had been and how all of these family photos had ended up being sold jumbled in a stack to complete strangers. There amongst all of it I found an old newspaper clipping of the mother and daughter. From that I had a name and my search went to the net. 

Bits and pieces began to fall into place. The young man had grown up in what appeared to be a very loving well-to-do family, been in the military during the 60s, had traveled to Japan where I believe he took this photo along with several others. He was a good photographer. It turned out he was good at a lot of things. He owned a winery, a restaurant, and had been a pilot. I had photos of the winery being built, a building I'd often passed and admired.

It was a bit intoxicating having the lives of these people open up before me like a mystery. I stared into their faces wondering what had happened to them. And then I found the information online which ended my search and brought an abrupt end to my sleuthing. I'd just grown attached to these people when I discovered that the young man had died tragically in a plane crash in 1988. The man who took this wonderful joyous photo died tragically.

Though I know his name, because I have no concrete evidence that the story I put together that day is reality, I won't put his credit with the photo. I'd love to do it, but there's the chance that I'm wrong. The whole story was as transitory as a spring rain shower.


THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN who lived in a shoe

        There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, 
        She had so many children she didn't know what to do.
        She gave them some broth without any bread
        Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

For some reason I saw this snapshot and the first two lines of the nursery rhyme kept running through my brain. Then I went in search of the last few lines and thought "Whoa!" I hadn't remembered the violence in the rhyme.

The reality of this photo is unknown, but I'm willing to bet she's not standing in front of a giant shoe. Most likely this nice lady received this lovely chenille bathrobe as a gift and stepped outside to have her photo taken. I'm thinking it was probably one of those pretty pastel chenille colors. I'm hoping it was pink or green. Chenille. I miss chenille. I do have an old chenille bedspread that is still in beautiful condition. I wonder why it went out of fashion. My useless thought for the day: "Chenille was fun." You may quote me.



MEMBERS welcome

Sooner or later we all end up at an event like this even if our motto follows Groucho Marx famous line "I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." For some reason people are drawn to these social clubs where men dress up in silly hats, have special rules, and host social events. Heaven knows I've been to my share. I usually sit there bewildered as to why we're all sitting in an ugly room with bad acoustics, eating mediocre food, and laughing at old stale jokes. I'm not a joiner so I spend my time looking around studying the moments and the people.

This shot was taken at an American Legion in San Francisco. I have no idea what year this was taken or what's going on. I do, however, recognize that vacant stare in the child's face. He's wondering, "What are we doing here?"  The adults get it, but the child is simply confused. The adults have spent weeks preparing this big event. They probably called it something like "Circus Night" and went out of their way to get decorations including the slightly creepy clown stuck up on the wall. The man either had this hat or put out a call to find one telling everyone he would be the master of ceremonies. He needed a hat, a fluffy tie, a cummerbund, and a pair of trousers with a stripe. I imagine it was all red, white, and blue.

the talent show_tatteredandlost
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For a few hours like-minded people gathered in a nondescript room and pretended life was something other than it was. And when the evening was over the people left smiling, the children tired, and then the clean-up crew swept the floors, put the chairs away, and packaged up what food was leftover in aluminum foil. Then the lights were turned out and the ugly furniture was left alone with the clown in the quiet nondescript room. Same sort of event goes on every night somewhere in this country and we all share these memories.

There's a wonderful book about these sort of events by photographer Bill Owens. The book is called "Our Kind of People" and I have a link on the left for it. The book was published in 1975 and covered social events in the Bay Area of Northern California, specifically the area around Pleasanton, Livermore, and Dublin. Each photo is fascinating and reflective of American society then and now. I highly recommend it. For more information about Bill Owens click here for his site. He documents the obvious that we somehow don't see. And nobody ever took a better photo of a Tupperware party!



Oh sure, this snapshot looks ordinary enough, buuuuuut...it's a little quirky. So I like it.

Just another cutting the cake found photo? I think not. Let's start on the far right, in the other room. The milk is sitting on a stool. Now perhaps the container is empty and was simply placed there before it ends up in the trash. Orrrrrrrr...perhaps these people like their milk at room temperature. Or perhaps they don't have a fridge. We'll never know. 

brothers help_tatteredandlost
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Then we get to the chair on the right. Most likely the photographer realized that if it were left at the table it would have hidden the cake in the shot so he/she wisely pulled the chair to the side. Too bad they didn't pull it out of the frame completely. It sort of just, well, sits there...staring at us. Okay, staring at me. Probably nobody else is bothered by the chair.

But here's where it gets a little odd. The young man is helping the young woman cut the cake. Two hands on the knife. At first I had all sorts of ideas crashing around my brain. I came to the conclusion it's one of the following:
  1.  He's guiding her hand so that he gets the size of slice he wants
  2.  They're twins and it's a cake for both of them. There are about 13 or 14 candles on it.
What do you think? 

Basically, I got to celebrate three birthdays this week. None of them allowed me to be there when any cakes were cut, even the one I baked. So I'll have to make do with this.

Happy Birthday to my mother, my father, and my best friend.


Did cameras SET THEM FREE?

I have an unproved-no-research-just-thinking-off-the-top-of-my-head theory. I think cameras set woman free to be silly. Those little box Kodak Brownies that were so popular at the beginning of the last century allowed anyone to document moments. But they did more than document a moment, they purposely created moments. And they allowed women to shimmy out of the straight laced behavior that had been forced on them for so long. Girls could be girls for a little longer than before. Yes, they had to become "women" to get along in society, but instead of just standing stiffly waiting for a professional photographer to snap a portrait of them, alone or standing solemnly with their husband, they could act silly and take pictures of each other doing it. They could laugh without feeling restrictions and when the prints were developed they could look back on those times and smile. 

I have no idea where this photo was taken, but I'm imagining a women's college. Perfectly silly and wonderful.

little teapot_tatteredandlost
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