Saturday, November 25, 2006

I wish I knew...

...the stories behind some of the old photos that have made their way into my collection. Here's one of my favorites:

Standing (left to right) are my great-aunt Ruth, her mother (my great-grandmother), Dora; and my grandfather, Lewis. Seated on the running board are my grandmother, Lola, next to her sister-in-law (my great-aunt), Hazel. My great-grandfather, Joe, sits on the ground and holds Ruth's older son, Bill, in his lap. The trees are bare, and everyone except my grandmother is wearing warm clothing, so my first thought was that the family may have gathered for Thanksgiving.

But then there's this photo, which appears to have been taken on the same day. It shows Lola and Ruth pulling Bill, my mother, Wanda, and my Uncle Neale in the wagon. Little Bill was born October 9, 1924. His brother, Bob, who doesn't appear in these photos, was born two years later on November 6, 1926. It's possible that Baby Bob was asleep in the house, but I can't imagine they'd have taken family photos without including the newest child. Also, Aunt Ruth's dress looks to me like it might be a maternity dress, even though the dark color camouflages any hint of a baby bump.

In the absence of Baby Bob, I'm deducing the photos were taken in 1926, but earlier in the year than Thanksgiving. Uncle Loren (who probably took these photos) and Aunt Hazel married in July of 1926 and hadn't moved away from Missouri yet, or I'd think their visit was the reason for the get-together.

If the family gathered just for the heck of it, I don't think they'd be all dressed up and taking pictures of the occasion. It wasn't easy to get my grandfather into a suit.

I'm left with only one idea: Little Bill's second birthday. October might have been early enough in the year that my grandmother thought she could get by with short sleeves. I'm not sure about the trees being so bare in October, but I remember trick-or-treating in the snow once, so I suppose it's possible.

Can you see any clues I'm missing?


  1. Velvet, I would venture your grandmother did all the cooking for the occaision...hence her short sleeves. Holly

  2. That's a good observation, Holly.

    I just noticed something else, too, although I've studied these photos dozens of times before. My grandmother's dress is different in the two photos. I'd realized that she just wasn't wearing a belt in the second one, but I just now noticed that her dress in the first photo has a collar and cuffs.

    Aunt Ruth is dressed the same in both pictures, as is the baby (with the addition of a coat in the second photo). Either the photos were NOT taken on the same day or my grandmother changed her dress between the two photos.


  3. How fun to play Nancy Drew with your old photos! Let us know if you figure it all out...Carmon

  4. I made my mother sit and write on the back of all the old family photos - and still there are many that she labeled "unknown". She and I had such wonderful conversations as we looked through hundreds of old photos. You're having a similar conversation with yourself - and with us.

    There are two shadows in the second picture and I wonder if you can find any other photos that show the headgear - and if that will help you narrow the time/date/occasion even more closely? Failing that, put Patsy on the case. She's got a fantastic eye for detail; she's a natural detective.

  5. Carmon, it IS fun. I can literally spend hours playing with these old photos.

    Annie, good catch on the shadows. The shadow in the left foreground of the second photo appears to be wearing a hat like that my grandfather wore in the top photo. That hat, plus the cloche hat my Aunt Ruth is wearing, would be consistent with the '20s. I do have a couple more photos that appear to have been taken with the same camera, but the children are older in those photos, so they don't really offer any clues about these two.

  6. It could have been taken in the spring-maybe Easter? And I wouldn't rely entirely on the hats for the date-some women wore their hats years after the style went out.

  7. Janet, that's a good point about the hats, but I know I'm pretty close on the year because I know the birthdates of these children. The photos would have to have been taken between the spring of 1926 and the spring of 1927.

    Easter was on April 4th in 1926 (thank you, Google), so Little Bill would have been 18 months old (to me he looks bigger than that in the photos), and Aunt Ruth would have been two months pregnant with Baby Bob (possible, but probably too soon for her to be wearing a maternity dress, if that's what it is).

    In 1927, Easter was on April 17. By that time Baby Bob would have been born and would be 6 months old. Surely he would have been in the photo, too.

    The other thing that makes me think the photos were taken in the fall is that all the women except my grandmother were wearing dark dresses. Wouldn't they have been in lighter colors for Easter? And Easter bonnets with flowers on them?

    You guys are raising points that are helping me think this through. I appreciate that and hope you'll keep them coming.

  8. You know, if it was Thanksgiving and baby Bob was only 3 weeks old - maybe they thought it was too raw to bring such a little one out. If Aunt Ruth just had a baby, she might not have lost pregnancy weight yet and might still be in "baggy" clothes. They might have taken photos of baby Bob - inside - but is it possible you don't have that photo, or it was lost? If it was a birthday, I would think a photo would have been taken of the birthday cake.

    Whose house were they all at? If it was your grandmother Lola's, that might explain the clothes change - maybe she spilled something on her first dress!

    Also, I can't tell from the computer shots - but is there better detail on the originals - what is the debris on the ground - leaves or something else? Does the grass look full and growing or thin? Are the trees devoid of leaves - are there any large leaves on them? How about small buds?

    Very intriguing, Velvet!

    (83% done! Woohoo!)

  9. what is that on the porch by the door..something round like a tin container.

    the hood of the car is up and the windows are as well. how far did they have to travel to see the family?

    everyone seems to be wearing a dark colour except your grandmother and the baby. Did the day have something to do with them or did she just happen to wear a light dress that day?


  10. Sunflower, those are really good questions. I found only one more photo that was obviously taken on that same day. Surely, there were others that I don't have. Your points about Ruth and baby Bob are good ones.

    I'm not positive whose house they were at, but I think it was probably Lola and Lewis's house. The 1920 and 1930 US Census records show that they, as well as Ruth's family, lived in Springfield, Missouri.

    Joe and Dora, along with teen-aged Loren (Hazel's husband) lived in Waynesville, MO in 1920. Also, Dora's parents (my great-great-grandparents) were alive, in good health, and living in Waynesville at that time.

    Joe and Dora were still in Waynesville in 1930. My best guess is that Joe and Dora traveled with Ruth and Loren to Springfield for the occasion. I'm basing this guess on the presence of the wagon (no wagon-aged children in Waynesville for quite some time) and the absence of Dora's parents in the family group shot.

    Zooming in on the photo, I can see that at least some of the light-colored spots on the ground are leaf-shaped. If there is grass, it's very sparse, and I don't see any signs of leaves or buds on the trees.

    I questioned whether the oldest generation would have been left behind on Thanksgiving, but they had other family in Waynesville, so they wouldn't have been alone for the holiday.

    Now you have me thinking it was Thanksgiving again. The dress clothes would make more sense for Thanksgiving than for a small child's birthday. Good job, Sunflower.

    Austin, good observations. The round thing suspended near the door appears to be a washtub, and that's probably a washboard sticking out of it.

    I just checked online and learned that the distance between Springfield and Waynesville is 68 miles, not too far, but probably at least a couple of hours in an old car like that.

    You asked if it could have been a special day for Lola and Lewis. Their son, Neale, turned six on November 4, 1926, so it's possible they could have hosted a birthday celebration for him. In fact, the third photo I have that was taken on that day is of Neale standing alone in the yard. That date was only two days before the birth of baby Bob. What do you think? Does Ruth look big enough or miserable enough to give birth two days later?

    This is fun. Thanks, folks.


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