Sunday, November 28, 2010


In my last post, I droned on
for a while about how much genealogical data can be gleaned (I love that word) from photographs. And while I was thinking about that, certain photos popped into my head, so I thought I'd better document them before they pop right back out again. That happens with astonishing regularity lately. Something (an image, an invention, a lucrative business venture, my first telephone number, etc.) is right there fully formed and then POOF, it's outta there. Perhaps my synapses are all rusted and clogged up, I understand gin is like WD-40 for your brain. I'm experimenting with that now, so I'll report back when I have viable data.

Wrestling myself back on topic, there's a photo down below of my father, Leon Kleylein and his younger brother Stanford Kleylein who I knew as Uncle Tanny. They're standing on the marble steps of a Baltimore rowhouse in 1909. In those days, the condition of your marble steps was a direct indicator of the quality and status of your household. Whole families would be out front every morning scrubbing them down with a scrub brush until they gleamed in the sun.

The first question I have about this photo is, 'What the hell are they wearing?' Your question was probably about the haircuts, but we'll get to that in a minute. Whatever these things are I don't recognize them. They appear to be one-sies made out of either linen or sackcloth with a built-in belt that has one button. ??? I wonder if this was a popular fashion of the day. Is this what Dagwood Bumstead wore when he was a child?

How do you get into the thing, is the whole back open like a hospital gown? If you double click on the image, it will resolve larger for you and you can see Uncle Tanny's kerfloggit seems to be coming apart in the back. That would have been dangerous in Baltimore even a hundred years ago.

And why are my father's sleeves so short? Did he have to wear it for five years? Was it made of canvas, then? If you look carefully, it appears the bottom part of my father's kerfloggit is wet! Was he stamping barefoot in the open sewers of Baltimore? Or perhaps he just finished scrubbing those marble steps. There are no shoes in sight, so I'm hoping is was summer, but you never know.

Perhaps he wasn't wearing shoes because of what they did to his feet. Man, those toes look like they hurt. A lot. But you can see he was applying a lot of pressure on Uncle Tanny to keep him from floating away. Shoes would have anchored him down a little.

The other interesting tidbit was that my father was wearing a gold (?) ring on the middle finger of his left hand. What's up with that? Is he engaged already?

Which brings us to the hair. It looks a bit like something Moe Howard wore but with a cut out in the front. Ahh, this was my clue. During this era, there was a popular cartoon character named Buster Brown, shown here with his dog Tiege, who went on to shill kids shoes (and apparently cigars).

Buster became so
popular, parents began dressing their children like him and having their hair cut similarly. So, my guess is that that this kerfloggit is a cheap Buster Brown knockoff and the haircut is an at-home, soup-bowl BB cut.

That still doesn't explain who he's engaged to, however. I wonder if my Mom ever knew.


Leah Kleylein said...

by the way, did you notice that their feet are nearly identical in shape? toes and all? if we ever doubted that they were brothers, this should clear that up...

Dave said...

Now I know where I got my weirdly shaped toes.