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".