Friday, September 17, 2010

Sepia Saturday: Acetate and Cold War Memories

In this photo are (from the left) my mother (Helen Biggs), maternal grandfather (Ralph Polley) and my mother's sister (Barbara Dunbar) at the time of Aunt Barbara's first marriage in 1958, when I was almost two. Amazingly, I have the print above the fireplace as well as the golden tea pot. How I wish I had the pink round chair and footstool, pink lamp, pink couch and golden drapes. This photo speaks volumes of the people and the era. For years I would look at it and see people and a sensibility of an era as foreign and incomprehensible to me as life on Mars. Now I look at my grandfather and see not only aspects of myself, but even my past.
Of the many daunting tasks in my life as the "patriarch" of my family, one of the more challenging is being the steward of my maternal grandfather's relics. He loved music, and had several hundred 78s, most of which I still have in my possession. (The photo above is the tip of the iceberg.) They cross many labels, genres, and sensibilities. I won't try to list them all here. But in the spirit of Sepia Saturdays, I'd like to suggest the recently discovered resource of Old Hat Records. My grandfather had a good number of the tracks available there. I have long since made MP3s of his quirky mix of 78s that include Bob Willlis and the Texas Playboys, Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, Herbert von Karajan, Kate Smith, the cast of "Broadway Melody", Benny Goodman and various recordings of "Mother Machree". Looking back at these acetate discs and the murky McCarthy era image at the top of this post, I have mixed emotions of what I carry forward from the past to the future. Though I will have no heir to carry forward these memories, there will be family members to whom I hope to pass these relics on to whom I hope will at least respect if not revere them. I care less about the various discs of von Karajan's take on Beethoven as I do about the Crew Cuts' version of "Slam Bam", Sarah Vaughan's "Naughty Papa" and The Stevedores take on "Last Night on the Back Porch I Loved You Most of All".

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19 Comments:

At 10:03 AM, OpenID imagespast said...

How nice that you are now the caretaker of items in an old photo of your Mum, grandfather and auntie :-)

 
At 6:23 PM, Blogger Christine H. said...

Do you actually have a turntable that plays 78s? Your mother and your aunt were very lovely and perfectly poised in this photo. I love their dresses - and oh that pink lamp!

 
At 8:13 PM, Blogger Marilyn said...

A lovely photo to have and to have your grandfather's records must be so interesting. Great post.

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

Your mom and aunt look beautiful. That must have been some era for them to live through. I suppose folks were aware of what was happening or they lived in their own small worlds. Either way, in had to have been interesting. Do you find that many of your grandfather's records are scratched?

 
At 9:10 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

imagespast - Caretaker of memories is probably the biggest task.

Christine - I do have a turntable that plays 78s. A couple, actually. Those dresses are quite amazing and were from my aunt's wedding rehearsal dinner.

Marilyn - I love playing them and imagining where he was when he bought them.

Nancy - My grandfather was meticulous about everything, so considering that some of his records are over 80 years old, they are in amazingly good condition.

 
At 1:38 AM, Blogger Joan said...

Oh what a pity the pink chair is no longer. A great post. Wonderful to have the records.

 
At 4:57 AM, Blogger Alan Burnett said...

The photograph is a classic of its time - like a test shot for a 1950s period drama. And the 78s - I'm a great lover of 78s as well but only have a small collection compared to you.

 
At 5:41 AM, Blogger urban muser said...

I love that blue dress. That's cool that you still have some of the items seen in that photo.

 
At 7:57 AM, Blogger daylily (Queenmothermamaw) said...

What a wonderful collection and ever greater that you have a music on an updated method to listen to. Great post.
QMM

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger MuseSwings said...

I too am the caretaker of the memories, although they are maily pictures. The things of the past have moved on and are out of reach except when pictured.

 
At 11:41 AM, Blogger Tattered and Lost said...

The photo really sets the period. I can remember my folks being dressed like this, the babysitter coming to care for me, my folks heading out to a party. That's what I thought life was going to be like. Not so much.

 
At 12:24 PM, Blogger tony said...

We Have The Luxury Of Knowing "what came next". Old photos of people looking out to a future they can never imagine.......A very evocative photo.
Oh, +I've always had a soft spot for Bob Willis!

 
At 5:19 PM, Blogger TICKLEBEAR said...

sarah vaughan and josephine baker??? priceless!!! i can relate to the lack of heir... but i have not much else than money to leave behind... i still can't get over the sexiness/glam of your mom. but for me, the lamp intrigues me more than the chair...
to each his own!!
:D~
HUGZ

 
At 6:54 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Joan - Let's hope the pink chair went to a thrift shop and then a loving home.

Alan - It feels sort of like the set of a Douglas Sirk movie to me.

Urban - And it looks like that dress has something like a 14 inch waist.

Daylily - It's nice to have both sepia sounds and images.

Muse Swings - I also have the early 1900s post cards from when my other grandparents were dating and hope to post here soon.

Tony - Agreed on Bob Willis. He was hybrid/fusion before people even used such terms.

Ticklebear - The design pattern on that lamp was quite amazing. Agreed on my mother (the one in black) who always thought she was the less attractive sister. My aunt was a beautiful woman but knew it and flaunted it. My mother's lack of awareness of her beauty/sexiness was part of her appeal.

 
At 9:41 PM, Blogger TICKLEBEAR said...

bingo!!
that is to me true sexiness!! when you flaunt it, that's all you see. i like to appreciate a person on more than one level...
maybe it's just me...
:)~
HUGZ

 
At 10:23 PM, Blogger PattyF said...

You have my complete envy, Junk Thief! That's quite a collection you have there. Oh, how I wish I knew what became of my parents' 78s. I only hope they've been preserved like yours.

I really like your photo, too. It transports me straight to 1958. Love the furnishings! But I have to ask ... why pink? I have Christmas balls from my parents dating from the 50s and they're pink as well. Now I'm curious. I'll have to see if I can find an explanation.

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger Pat transplanted to MN said...

Oh that photo is memorable; they way folks dressed up for photos! I love that pink chair too and have not seen one like it in my prowlings of antiques and used stores. Ahh the records,,we bought a remake ala Crosley radio/CD/ record player but it only does 33 1/3 albums and 45's. Fun though

 
At 3:40 PM, Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

Oh, all very wonderful!
I need to start coming back here more often. :)

 
At 3:00 PM, Blogger L. D. Burgus said...

The record collection must be overwhelming. I really like the family photo and all that pink.

 

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