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
Click on the image to see it larger.

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!


  1. This reminds me so much of a photo we have of my husband, about the same age as the boy in your photo, with a local TV clown!

  2. By any chance was it a Bozo clown? I have a photo stashed away somewhere of my Brownie troop with our local Bozo at a tv station in Hawaii. I know Bozo was sort of franchised. Heaven knows where I stuck that photo, but thanks for the reminder it exists.

  3. Anonymous3/10/2009

    I wonder if the show also included a hypnotist. The volunteers would sit on those unusual slip-covered chairs and stare into the eyes or swinging pocket watch of the mysterious Mr. Wonder.


  4. I think you've nailed it. That explains the look of the child. He thinks he's a butterfly and she's holding his wings down. Meanwhile the man in the hat is calling BINGO even though nobody is playing the game. It's an episode of the Twilight Zone.