Thursday, February 25, 2010

Heirloom of the Week

When I was a kid, I used to play with this Brownie camera, not appreciating its history. Now it holds an honored place in my collection of family memorabilia. This little Brownie contributed many of the family photos in my possession. It sits here on the tattered photograph album that belonged to my mother and which she filled with photos from her college years. There are photos of her and her classmates at Mary Hardin-Baylor, there are photos of the family taken on summer breaks, there are photos of old boyfriends and of her cousins.

I am currently putting together a slide show to run as part of the memorial service we have planned for Mother. I decided to go back through the old album and check for photos I might have missed scanning and that should be included. I ran across the one below, which I found interesting for several reasons.

The photo was taken during Mother's freshman year at Mary Hardin-Baylor and, if I'm not mistaken, was taken on the porch of Ely Pepper dormitory. Ely Pepper was torn down some years back, but it still stood when I was attending college there. It had been turned over to the business department and converted to classrooms and I spent many an hour there as I worked toward my Business Administration degree. Both Mother and my Aunt Bettye were residents of the dormitory during their years there.

Both Mother and I experienced truly spectacular snowfalls (for Central Texas) during our respective freshman years at Mary Hardin-Baylor. I have numerous photos of her and her roommates playing in the snow that fell in 1949. That I rediscovered this photo on Tuesday when we were enjoying a rare and beautiful snowfall seemed significant in some way. Then I noticed she was holding the well-loved Brownie. What a perfect discovery on a special day. My mother, standing in snow 60 years ago, holding the camera that documented the family in the 1940s, and the snow falling outside my own window as I studied it.

It felt like a gift.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Heritage Photos of the Week

For some time now I have been sorting photographs. I got tired of the cumbersome photo albums that lined the back of the closet and I was also concerned that they were old and probably not made of archival quality material. I acquired a stack of archival-safe photo storage boxes and began the tedious process of removing photos from sleeves and trying to decide how to categorize them so they would be easier to locate.

I spent this Sunday afternoon watching old I Love Lucy reruns and separating photos into piles - trips, pets, various family groups, and on and on. I was momentarily stumped when this photo came to the top of the pile. Where on earth had it been taken?

It only took a few moments for me to place the old building and then to remember the occasion upon which I had snapped the shot. I had not thought about that day in quite awhile. Mother and I had gone to visit my grandmother Hodge and had taken a notion to drive out in the country and visit the farm where my grandparents had lived before my grandfather's health had failed and forced them to move into town.

The old garage was the only building left on the place at the time and even that is gone now. We had driven in the gate and parked under a big tree that had been at the back of the house. We sat and talked and remembered the place as it had been. I found a big square red sandstone rock that my grandmother thought might have been part of the foundation of the fireplace. I decided then and there that I was going to take that rock as a souvenir and I wrestled it into the Bronco II that I was driving at the time. It lived several years at our previous residence and we made sure to move it along with our other possessions when we moved out to the piney woods. That rock now sits in the flower bed outside my bedroom window.

I have one old photo of the garage which dates a wee bit before my time, but it looks pretty much the way I remember it. The dog is Frisco and my grandmother can be seen just outside of a gate that I suspect was the entrance to the chicken pen.

I never had much reason to be in the garage, but I can remember watching my aunt digging for doodle bugs in the sandy floor. (I wasn't that keen on handling bugs myself.) There was usually a flat bed trailer parked beside the garage and she and I would spend idle minutes walking from one end of the trailer to the other and making it tilt back and forth on its axle. There was a water trailer parked behind the garage that caught rain water that we used to wash our hair.

I walked past the old building hundreds of times and remember very little about it, but it was part of the background of my grandparents' farm. When I saw the photo this afternoon and the recognition suddenly dawned, I had a rush of nostalgia. I miss that old place.