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Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

One of my most loyal readers, Maryanne, said last week she enjoyed seeing pictures of the Springdale Methodist Church before and after it partially burned in 1967.

That got me thinking:

– I’ve got a whole lot of my grandfather’s old pictures, many of which capture sights around the Springdale neighborhood of Stamford.

– My grandfather much enjoyed photography, and would probably have liked the idea that people around the world could see his pictures.

– Nobody’s really going to be disappointed not to read 800 more of my words.

So this week I’m going to post a bunch of my grandfather’s photos from the 1950s through the ’80s. The photo buffs and local-history fans will dig it; others might enjoy a look back in time, not to mention more glimpses of my grandfather’s artistic vision.

Click to see the pix larger, if you’re interested:

1957 or '58. Maybe the Stamfordites in the crowd know where this was taken; I don't.

1957 or ’58. Maybe the Stamfordites in the crowd know where this was taken; I don’t.

Same year, probably same parade; the Dolan Junior High Band. My dad is visible in this pic but I am more intrigued by the young lady in the foreground, who has the gently alarmed look of a double agent who has been discovered.

Same year, probably same parade; this is the Dolan Junior High Band. My dad is visible in this pic but I am more intrigued by the detached (perhaps hostile) young lady in the foreground whose lipstick adds a flash of colour to the proceedings. I imagine her playing Julia in a movie treatment of “1984.”

Circa 1958. My aunt Elaine, newly conscripted into the Eisenhower Youth, stands ready (sits ready?) to ward off attacking Commies.

Circa 1958. My aunt Elaine, newly conscripted into the Eisenhower Youth, stands ready (sits ready?) to ward off attacking Commies.

Model trains, late 1950s. How much to ride on the All-American Turnpike?

Model trains, late 1950s. How much to ride on the All-American Turnpike?

Speaking of trains, this is somewhere in Stamford, 1959.

Speaking of trains, this is somewhere in Stamford, 1959. I think it looked uglier than it really was.

Crowd, Darien High vs Stamford High football game, 1958.

Crowd, Darien High vs Stamford High football game, 1958.

Stamford High football, this time 1959. Not sure who they're playing, but it appears to be an extremely confusing visual matchup of orange vs. red.

Stamford High football, this time 1959. Not sure who they’re playing, but it appears to be an extremely confusing visual matchup of orange vs. red.

Springdale Methodist confirmation class with Pansy, the neighbors' dog.

Springdale Methodist confirmation class with Pansy, the neighbors’ dog.

My grandma at some rest stop somewhere, 1959. I love this pic but couldn't tell you why.

My grandma at some rest stop, 1959. I love this pic but couldn’t tell you why.

Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, Connecticut, 1959.

Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, Connecticut, 1959.

Merritt Parkway, somewhere in Connecticut, 1959.

Merritt Parkway, somewhere in Connecticut, 1959.

Talmadge Hill commuter rail station, New Haven, c. 1960.

Talmadge Hill commuter rail station, New Haven, c. 1960.

Dancing at a Methodist church youth retreat, 1960. Everyone's hands appear to be where Jesus can see them.

Dancing at a Methodist church youth retreat, 1960. Everyone’s hands appear to be where Jesus can see them.

More from the Methodist church retreat. This, believe it or not, is one of the reverends.

More from the Methodist church retreat. This is one of the reverends, believe it or not. Google suggests he went south, joined the Freedom Riders and got arrested a year or two later. Wonder if Little Rock’s finest let him keep his cigarettes?

Cove Island, Stamford, 1960. In the days before pollution controls, lots of big hairy stuff used to just float around in the air.

Cove Island, Stamford, 1960. In the days before pollution controls, lots of big hairy stuff used to just float around in the air.

Springdale train station, probably fall 1960, with a cameo by the New York, New Haven & Hartford.

Springdale train station, probably fall 1960, with a cameo by the New York, New Haven & Hartford. I can’t barely remember the last time I went out into a public place and saw multiple men wearing hats.

Easter sunrise service, somewhere in Stamford, 1960.

Easter sunrise service, somewhere in Stamford, 1960.

This appears to be the sorriest-looking strawberry festival ever held, Springdale, 1963. Several of the people seem to be looking at the camera with outright hostility.

This appears to be the sorriest-looking strawberry festival ever held, Springdale, 1963. Several of the people seem to be looking at the camera with outright hostility.

The same strawberry festival, this time with the Blumenau family Ford in the foreground, shining as if it had just rolled out of a magazine ad.

The same strawberry festival, this time with the Blumenau family Ford in the foreground, gleaming as if it had just rolled out of a magazine ad.

Backyard picnic, Hope Street, 1964. Check out my grandpa, digging into what appears to be a chicken leg, with (as the kids on the Internet say) absolutely zero f--ks given.

Backyard picnic, Hope Street, 1964. Check out my grandpa, digging blithely into what appears to be a chicken leg.

Trip to the beach, summer 1964. That's a lot of Detroit metal right there.

Trip to the beach, summer 1964. That’s a lot of kandy-kolored Detroit metal right there (and two representatives from Wolfsburg).

World's Fair, Queens, 1964.

World’s Fair, Queens, 1964.

My grandma and aunt plot their next course, World's Fair, 1964.

My grandma and aunt plot their next course, World’s Fair, 1964.

One of my great-grandma's piano recitals, 1966. Anyone spot themselves?

One of my great-grandma’s piano recitals, 1966. Anyone spot themselves?

My great-grandma, 80 years old, 1967.

My great-grandma, 80 years old, 1967.

1968.

1968.

No beer.

No beer.

A look out onto a surprisingly placid Hope Street, circa 1970-72. Dunno whether the fruit basket was coming or going.

A look out onto a surprisingly placid Hope Street, circa 1970-72. Dunno whether the fruit basket was coming or going.

The three Mrs. Blumenaus, Penfield, N.Y., 1975.

The three Mrs. Blumenaus, Penfield, N.Y., 1975.

My brother, not sure he likes either slides or cameras; Stamford, 1975.

My brother, not sure he likes either slides or cameras. Stamford, 1975.

As verdant a portrait of suburbia as has ever been taken. The family is treated to a swim in the neighbors' pool, summer '75. The garage of 1107 Hope Street is in the background, as is my family's '73 Plymouth Satellite. I am the little kid stood up on the stool, clutching the beach ball.

As verdant a portrait of suburbia as has ever been taken. The family is treated to a swim in the neighbors’ pool, summer 1975. The garage of 1107 Hope Street is in the background, as is my family’s ’73 Plymouth Satellite. I am the little kid stood up on the stool, clutching the beach ball.

In the shadows of 1107 Hope Street, 1983, a year before my grandparents sold the place.

In the shadows of 1107 Hope Street, 1983, a year before my grandparents sold the place. The front door with the glass butterfly leads out onto the porch facing an increasingly busy Hope Street. The house lives on in the shadows of memory; maybe this is a good place to leave off.

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Still making with the snapshots. The calendar entries will be back soon.

If last week’s Blumenau family snapshot is like a behavioral experiment — how will the members of a small group of people interpret or resist a request? — this week’s photo poses a different question:

How will the members of a small group of people respond to unexpected adversity?

The seven people in this picture are in a situation we’ve all been in at some point in our lives:

– They are arrayed in front of a camera that’s been set to go off via self-timer.

– The camera, a high-precision assemblage of the best consumer imaging technology Japan has to offer, has gotten stuck.

– The people have waited – first patiently, then less and less so – for the shutter to fall, holding their poses and nursing their smiles.

– At long last, the camera master has given up and gone to fix the problem.

– And then, inevitably: Click.

Summer 1978.

Summer 1978.

Most of the family appears to be clinging to some semblance of their formal poses. They know in their bones that the camera will click as soon as they slacken. They are locked into a test of patience, a steely death-match that rewards its winners with the eternal appearance of calmness and composure.

My grandfather, the camera master, has done what camera masters have done in this situation since time eternal. Like a captain staying on the bridge as his ship takes on water, he is honoring a moral code. It is his duty to break his pose, walk toward the errant camera — and, inevitably, lose the death-match.

My father appears to have craned his head around and behind my mother’s to get a glimpse of the camera, as if that would allow him to diagnose what was wrong with it. In this moment of hubris, he has also lost the death-match.

(The little kid in the cutoffs, whose name is Kurt, has also let his concentration slip, but not as badly as his father and grandfather. And anyway, little kids get free passes in situations like this.)

Perhaps my grandpa’s control over his camera has slackened because he is not on Hope Street.

The setting for this photo is the backyard of my childhood home in Penfield, N.Y. The assemblage behind us is a temporary screened-in structure, erected in spring and dismantled in fall. It lives on in family lore as “the scream house” — not because it was used for the torture and dismemberment of passing hoboes, but because of a childish mispronunciation of “screen house.”

Finally, I cannot help but compare this week’s picture to last week’s, and note what 18 years did to my grandfather. Last week he looked virile; this week he looks old.

The years between 1960 and 1978 were busy, demanding and sometimes quite challenging for my grandpa.

(If you don’t know the details, click here and read forward. I suggest you set aside some time…)

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I mentioned last week I’d probably divert from the calendar entries for a few, and write a couple posts based primarily on my grandpa’s photos. Indeed.

Two years ago around this time, I wrote a post about a gorgeous, timeless heat-of-summer photo my grandpa captured.

Most likely, it was taken July 31, 1975, during a visit to Cove Island Park, a public park in Stamford overlooking Long Island Sound.

The picture I wrote about isn’t the only great photo my grandfather took on that trip. Y’all wanna click on this and look at it full-size for a minute:

Solitude

(Yes, there is a honkin’ big hair-thing in the photo, probably an artifact of the scanning process. I look at it from a Zen perspective: All things manmade must have a fault somewhere, or else they wouldn’t be manmade. Look past it, out toward the eternal sea.)

I am guessing the woman in the picture — laboriously dressed to block the sun, even on a 90-degree day — is my grandmother. She would have dressed like that to go to the beach.

And, since the original calendar entry mentions “lunch at Cove Island,” it’s possible that the bag or basket in her hand has a couple sammiches in it. It’s not a large bag, but my grandparents were not gluttonous.

I’m not hung up on literal reproduction of the day’s events, though. What I like is the story between the lines.

Check out the woman in long sleeves and pants, separated by both height and distance from the faraway figures on the beach.

She is so close to freedom and relaxation and pleasure, she can practically reach out and touch it. And yet, it is not hers to have.

Her clothing and posture suggest a certain fundamental ambivalence about it. She has deliberately brought herself to the place of sun- and sea-worship, but has come prepared to deny herself any participation.

Down on the beach, practically at the photo’s center, is a young family — what looks like two parents and a small child — suggesting fertility, vigor and action. Up on the viewing deck is a single person, suggesting stillness, confinement and loneliness. Is youth a release? The image suggests so.

Both a fence and a road separate the woman from the beach. In the endless dichotomy between civilization and nature, man and wilderness, she is staying firmly planted in the known, sanitized, well-defined world of settled life.

There is no visible threat to keep the woman on the deck away from the beach. No riptides; no thunderclouds; no crush of towel-to-towel, shoulder-to-shoulder bathers.

She just chooses not to go, even though the grass beckons with a wonderful deep green, and the sky presents a tapestry of deep blue dotted with cumulus white.

Also note, while we’re at it, the rich marine blue color of the observation deck. It’s sorta like a copy of the ocean … a flat, tamed version of the sea in which even the likes of my grandma can feel comfortable parking her feet.

I am sure my grandparents eventually made their way down to the beach, got comfortable after a fashion, and enjoyed their lunch.

But in this single fall of the shutter are more complicated possibilities.

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Having spent last week on a depressed rumination about the aftermath of divorce, I’ll swing back the other way and contemplate the ties that bind.

The impetus for this week’s sermon is a picture from my grandpa’s photo archives, of a moment involving my parents.

(I suggested years ago that I might someday write some blog posts about his photos, in addition to his calendar items. You may see some of that in the next few weeks. Scope creep is my friend, at least during the dog days of summer.)

Untitled15

My folks are in an above-ground pool somewhere in Stamford, Connecticut. It might have belonged to a neighbor of my grandparents’ on Hope Street, though it might also have been my Great-Aunt Mary’s. It matters not.

My mom is relaxing in an inner tube, presumably because she does not want to completely submerge in the water.

My dad, cheerfully ignoring that cue, has just doused her with a splash of pool-water. He appears to be heartily enjoying the moment. Smirking, even.

(His sideburns add to the interpretation. Everything a man does seems to acquire a little extra swagger when sidies like that are involved.)

Oh, you dog, my mom seems to be saying as she recoils from the facewash.

splash

(For those who demand fealty to the calendar: This picture was most likely taken during a family visit to Stamford around the Fourth of July, 1975. Here, I’ll show you proof. Then we’ll move on.)

775

The picture of my folks in the pool seems, to me, to encapsulate all the things that spouses and life partners do to piss each other off.

Some are unintended. Others are bald-faced and deliberate and totally without shame, like a faceful of chlorinated water.

Some come and go, and are quickly forgotten. Others rankle, no matter how much we try to reason them away, and require things like professional therapy, or a couple nights on the couch, or a good old-fashioned angry have-it-out.

But — at least in some relationships — it all ends up under the bridge somewhere. As it did for my parents, who will celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary just about a week from now, pool rudeness notwithstanding.

This is not to say that people who get divorced — or people who stay single — are doing it wrong, or that lengthy relationships are the only definition of success.

It’s just a recognition of the power of forgiveness, and of the mysterious connection that can make people get over all the inconveniences, slights, pranks and wiseassery that human beings can inflict, even on the ones they love most.

I can’t explain it; but I know it when the camera captures it.

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My dad sent me the photo below as a follow-up to yesterday’s post. (You remember, the one about my grandfather going to see his old friend Fred Dearborn perform.)

This was taken in August 1959 at Lake George, in the central Massachusetts town of Wales. It was my dad’s only trip to Lake George, which was a favorite hangout of my grandpa and his friends when he lived in Springfield.

My dad believes the shorter, balding man in the back row is Fred Dearborn, and his wife and mother are both seated in the front row.

Lake George, Wales, MA 1959

This also happens to be a superb picture of my grandfather, who is seated in the front row, smiling as if he owned the place.

Lake George, DB Wales, MA 1959

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