Sunday, February 22, 2009

Of Photographs and Fool's Errands


I inherited some photographs after my father died.

These were albums put together by my mother and judging from the albums themselves, she began this project during World War II and stopped
making additions just a few years later. The pages were just cheap, blank black construction paper and any photographs were attached by the placement of large stickers glued to the corners of the photographs to hold them in place.

Consequently, one could place the photographs however one wished. And that's just how she placed them: however.
She clearly had a methodology in the placement of the snapshots. Over the years I have come to refer to that methodology as the ninja spaghetti style of photo placement. My vision is that at some point, all of her photographs, all the way back to her childhood, were stuffed in a envelope or box. Then, when the time came to mount them, she reached into the box with her eyes closed and whatever came out was the next thing mounted. Years, locations and subjects were jumbled willy-nilly until you got a glimmer of what dying people must view as their whole life passes before them in a collage of random images. I know many of you are snickering to yourselves all comfortable in the comfort of your comfy chairs. "He exaggerates!", you say. Oh, no - no, I don't.

Well, they were no good to anyone in those albums, so I took it upon myself to scan them, identify the people and locations and date them to the extent possible. So, I removed the photographs from the albums, removed the glue and stickers and went about the process of sorting. I was as careful as I could be, after all, the stickers had been licked and put in place by my mother, even if a lot of them did intrude pretty dramatically into the photograph images themselves.

Although the photos only had some written identification in perhaps one out of a hundred instances, I was helped by circumstance. Since there was no standardization of photo prints early on, I could group the images by shape, size, edging, contrast, bordering and frequently a code that had been
stamped on the back by the developer. Then, there are the usual photograph dating tools like clothing, age of children, etc. I also used the Kleylein Chronicle (see the previous blog entry) to confirm where someone might have been at the time in question. So, I got them scanned, cleaned them up, identified them to the best of my limited ability and then I entered the Fool's Errand part of the story. Some of these photographs were taken when my brother and I were babies. Actually, many more of them were of my older brother Dave, you know how that goes.

But I became very interested to FIND the locations where these photos were taken and see what was going on there now. When you're motivated,
you find a way, here's an example. In this photograph, notice the sign to the right of my brother. Well, when you blow that up sufficiently and analyze the heck out of it, it says:

Boat for Hire
F. J. Reppenhagen
1030 NE 90th. St.
Phone 73088

This is just around the corner from a little man-made inlet called Lake Ward. Mr. Reppenhagen's (what a cool name) back yard was waterfront property on Lake Ward, right where his boat was parked. Now I knew exactly where these photographs were taken and as you can see on this map, it's only a block from NE 10th. Ave otherwise known as
East Dixie Highway (see previous blogs). There's Lake Ward in the upper right. I have no idea why they called it 'Lake' Ward. It's clearly not a lake and Leave it to Beaver wouldn't be on TV for years.

This spot was a favorite with my parents for some reason. There were wide open glassy areas there in those days, it wasn't completely built up like it is now. We were living in a place only a couple minutes drive from there and I presume they took us kids so we could run around and look at the water. We didn't have television in those days. I took a trip down to Miami and drove to the locations I had determined in my research and took some photographs.

Here, for example, is the spot where I sat in the grass as a baby and where my brother and I ran around. I imagined that everyone was happy in those days. At least, that's what the photographs seem to imply, I'll take them at their face value. So, it all turned out to be not that much of a Fool's Errand after all.

What fun.

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