Posts Tagged ‘photograph’

I’m taking intermittent breaks from the calendar entries to focus on some of my grandfather’s photographs, which tell just as many stories as the calendars do.

What we have here is a demonstration of how five individual people will interpret the same unambiguous request.

Summer 1960.

Summer 1960. In the back yard at 1107 Hope Street.

It looks like all five members of the Stamford Blumenaus are gathered around the table in perfect concord, at the same sort of al fresco dinner that millions of Americans will enjoy this month.

Here’s the story as I assemble it in my mind:

– My grandpa has set up the timer on his camera to get a genuine family photo, rather than yet another shot that has everybody but him in it.

We can gather this from, among other things, his side-saddle posture (which also gives us an excellent view of his work-stained khaki pants.)

He is either sitting that way because he doesn’t have time to get his legs swung in before the shutter clicks, or because sitting the “right” way will turn his back to the camera and detract from the shot he has in mind.

– In a radical departure, he seems to have urged the family to eat for the camera, to simulate a candid shot. This is not to be one of those sit-and-grin pictures; he wants a slice of life.

Certainly, his own posture leaves no doubt as to what he wants the rest of the family to do for the camera.


This hamburger has seconds to live.

Behind him is his teenage son, later to be my father. Young Rod seems perfectly fine with the paternal edict, stuffing something into his mouth for posterity.

My grandmother is less convinced. She is obligingly holding a piece of food — a cherry tomato? a strawberry? But her facial expression says: You people can be silly if you want. I’m not going along with these wacky ideas. I’ll eat after I hear the click.

Backyard Picnic Grandma

My great-grandma is old enough to remember when getting your picture taken meant putting on your Sunday dress and holding your breath for five hours. Eating for the camera is an unexpected convenience of modern life, and, judging from the slant of her mouth, she is content to join in.

Next to her is my future Aunt Elaine, a member of a budding generation of women who will go to college and hold jobs and do everything men can do, only better. Game for new experiences and adventures, she chomps right in.

Backyard Picnic Grossee Elaine

So, we have four eaters and one skeptic. That’s a pretty good percentage. I guess there’s a holdout in every crowd.

(I wonder if my grandpa saw the developed picture, looked at his wife and sighed in exasperation. It is possible.)

We will end this post as my grandparents appear to have ended the meal — with a pot of campfire-style grill-brewed coffee, the sort that today’s Starbucks-coddled generation would probably spit, horrified, into the weeds.

Want some?

Backyard Picnic Grill


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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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The post I had planned to put up today kinda fell through.

So instead I’ll depart from the calendar entries for a week, and put up a particularly nice photo of my grandpa and I.

I haven’t written much about my direct interactions with my grandfather. That’s because the calendar entries on which this blog is based end in December 1975, when I was two-and-a-half years old. There are no items on his calendars that I remember firsthand.

I also don’t specifically remember the circumstances of this picture, which was taken by my father sometime around 1981 in the dining room at Hope Street.

But it’s a nice example of intergenerational connection, anyway.

I don’t know why my grandpa would have gotten splinter duty, as opposed to my mom or grandma. Perhaps because he was a cool-headed and methodical sort, with a businesslike bedside manner.

You can see he’s put on a pair of glasses over his pair of glasses, so as to get the best possible view of the delicate surgery involving his grandson.

And certainly, the expressions of all involved reflect the weight of the situation.

The little kid with the puddin’-bowl haircut seems to be asking, “Will I ever play the violin again, Doctor?” And the older man with the thinning hair is responding, “Tough case. But signs point to yes.”

Clearly the healing mojo in those bony hands worked, as I am alive, well, and blogging today. (I no longer play the violin. But that is no great loss to humanity.)

I can imagine the gentle firmness of his hands and the quiet of his concentration, even if I don’t specifically remember the moment.

It is a wonderfully comforting thing to a child to know that multiple generations of his family are there to help him.

It sorta makes him feel like, no matter what he runs into, there is someone there who can guide him through it — maybe Mom one day, maybe Grandpa the next. They can’t (and won’t) get him off the hook, necessarily, but they will at least help him understand what’s going on.

I am still decades away from being able to offer that kind of support to grandchildren, if I have any.

I kinda hope I do.

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It’s a scene Monet could have painted.

A sun-parched, stubbornly green parcel of grass juts into a cerulean expanse of water, with a dark rim of looming land barely visible in the far distance.

A speeding boat slices from right to left, while a rock outcropping breaks the water near the picture’s center — close enough to be reached by the handful of bathers poised in various attitudes by the shore.

Rounding out the scene at far right is a single shade tree, its dark-green leaves offering solace to at least one party of travelers camped out under its branches.

This image isn’t hanging in a museum anywhere. Nor, as far as I know, was it ever rendered in oil on canvas.

My grandfather, with his artist’s eye, captured it with a camera one summer’s day.

And I’m going to guess wildly that I know just where and when he took it.

July 31, 1975.

Cove Island Park is owned and operated by the city of Stamford, and overlooks Long Island Sound.

I’ve never been there myself, so I can’t be sure. But I’m somehow convinced my grandpa’s faux-Monet picture — which I know dates to 1975 — was taken there.

You can fish at Cove Island (as someone in the photo appears to be doing), or walk on a one-mile loop trail, or go birdwatching. Or you can just pack a couple of turkey sandwiches and a camera and enjoy lunch al fresco, as my grandparents and great-grandma apparently did.

July 31, 1975, was a Thursday. I’m guessing that explains why there aren’t that many people on the beach.

My grandpa was retired by then; he could go any day he wanted. And since his house didn’t have air conditioning, he wasn’t going to be any cooler staying at home on a humid day than he was venturing out to the shore.

It doesn’t really matter where or when the picture was taken, in the end.

No matter what its backstory, it’s still an exquisite slice of the stillness of summer, and an image worthy of hanging in a gallery somewhere.

Until that happens, this blog will have to do.

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A little thematic music.

This post doesn’t have any real connection to yesterday’s. It’s just an opportunity to whip out a couple pictures my grandfather took that I kinda like, but that don’t have any other home in the narrative.

Thought you might enjoy these — especially as a reminder, in this wintry time of year, that there really are four seasons, and the weather isn’t going to be snowy forever, and the dogwoods will bloom in just a couple of months.

My grandpa took these in 1957-58, looking out from (I believe) the rear-facing attic window at 1107 Hope Street. Click for larger versions of the pix if you are so moved.

Back yard in winter.

Back yard in spring, with dogwood in full effect.

Summer. The trees are in leaf, the roses are in bloom, the Yanks are in first, and all is right with the world.

Back yard in autumn.

And back again to a frosty blue winter evening.

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