Archive for October, 2007

Charles Baxter, in his vestments

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Unfortunately for Mr. Baxter, he’s got too common a name for me to reliably track him down. Most photos are from the Winona, Minnesota area, so I’m fairly certain Charles hails from there. This photo of Charles, in his vestments, was taken in 1916 (as was one of him out of vestments), so my guess is he was born in the 1890s — he’s probably not around anymore, sadly. The back of the photo indicates he’s wearing his “vestments”, consisting of an unadorned white chasuble over a black alb or cassock, with a light-colored fringed stole with the Cross Pattée embroidered at the ends. Having the stole draped to the side would indicate that Charles hasn’t completed his ordination yet — it’s worn symmetrically by ordained priests & ministers usually. His book is rather thin, and is probably a prayer-book. Vestments are similar between the various Christian lines, so I can’t decisively identify his church. Still, I hope he continued his education, and got his stole moved to the center.

The Simmons

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Oh, dear, no…no, no, no. The guys aren’t so bad — pumpkin wide-collars shirts should be coming back into vogue any time now (although I wonder if Chuck Klosterman in the back ever lived this down). When it comes to the ladies’ outfits, however, using the tablecloth to make dresses, that’s too much. The pattern is so hideous, so camouflaging, that it’s possible there’s only one three-headed woman there, I can’t quite tell.

The Simmons, near as I can find out, was a Christian singing-family group from Winnipeg, Canada. Of course, there’s nothing online about them, which is all the more reason I better put something online to document this lovely group. Sadly, all I have is this album’s dustjacket — there’s no vinyl to be found. While we now know what The Simmons looks like, their sound is temporarily lost to antiquity.

18 Miles To Norfolk

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

We’re going to Norfolk! My guess is that these sailors were on the way to Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia, ready to work on the steel-clad steamships that dominated the US Navy in the earliest parts of the 20th century. Given the style of car and the uniforms, Norfolk was probably a short stop: World War I was probably the ultimate destination for these lads.

Took The Roof Off

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

The idea that a tornado could take the roof clean off sounds like an exaggeration — but there’s ample evidence that’s exactly what happened here. These photos were from the 1950s at the latest — 1920s at the earliest — all of which are on the early side when it comes to rural infrastructure in this part of the world. Put yourself in this farm family’s shoes: It’s raining like hell, you’ve got no TV, no telephone, no radio (and even if you did, there was no ‘emergency broadcast system’, no NOAA weather radio, and even a little rain interferes with them all), you’re huddled around a candle in your dirt cellar, and you hear the rumbling — like a train, but the nearest tracks are 10 miles away. You’ve got nothing you can do but wait it out, and hope it doesn’t come too close of the house. They’re lucky it was just the top of the barn — as you can see in the last photo, they were able to put things back together, hopefully without too much loss.

Victorian Halloween: Black-Face

Saturday, October 20th, 2007


Helene and Mrs. Faucher had the best of intentions when they dressed up for Halloween, 1916, in blackface — little did they know that, ninety-one years later, people from all over the world will be sending off disgusted electronical-correspondences to a writer in North Dakota who published their photo for everyone to see.

No, please, withhold your electronical- correspondences; It’s Halloween, a time when, even though a few buck the system and go as princesses and Batmans (and the stores are full of slutty pirate-wench outfits for pre-teen girls, but that’s another issue entirely), we encourage our kids to dress up as murderers and the murdered, thieves and monsters, and all sorts of terrible and horrible beings. If Halloween is about being scary, evoking fear of harm, who can think of something more monstrous, recalling more violence and pain, than these costumes?

Helene and her partner-in-crime were probably trying to be funny — and how outgoing! These ladies were born around the time the Civil War was ending, growing up at the height of Victorian conservatism, and here they were dressing up as popular media characters of the time. Too bad they picked something that their great-grandkids would wince at whenever the photo album was brought out. Helene and her girlfriends were tech-savvy for the time: they took many candid, personal photos of themselves, some of which ended up in my Victorian Ladies Gone Wild section.

Fertile Business Card

Saturday, October 20th, 2007


Earnie Askelson lived in the small city of Fertile, MN, one of the larger stops between Fargo and Grand Forks along US 75. During the 1950s, Thorkelson & Jacobs was an implement dealer, catering to the huge farming community in the region. As you might notice, firm lines weren’t drawn between the types of machines with engines: cars were sold along with the plows and harvesters. For a small town, I’ll bet this helped against spreading the expert mechanics too thin between dealerships. Thorkelson & Jacobs no longer exists –if you’re looking for a Pontiac, Christian Motors is the GMC dealership in Fertile now.

More 1960s Halloween

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Sing along with me: “One of these things is not like the other; one of these things is not quite the same…” I really hope this photo was taken around Halloween, otherwise Gunther has got some ’splaining to do. If you look closely, he didn’t just grab some kid’s mask and put it on for the photo: he’s got mismatched ugly socks, an over-the-top boutonniere (matching his tie, no less!), all wrapped in an ill-fitting suit. Gunther was probably quite disappointed when nobody else wore their costumes to the party, coincidentally held on Halloween though no costuming was ever mentioned. He’s still wearing the costume to try and remain inconspicuous, as though he just casually stopped by in whatever he had on that day. Poor, poor Gunther.

Brick Building By the Railroad Tracks

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

The back of a nicely-made brick building, in an unknown town. Excellent brickwork, ball finial at the corner, backing the railroad — but no identifying signs on this site. I did my best, scanning and rescanning at highest resolution, using PShop tricks to try and coax out the words on the overhang, on the far right side, with no luck. It’s just not readable. I know I called it an ‘old brick building’ in the filename, but it was definitely not old at the time of the photo: taken in the 1920s or 1930s, it was probably 30 years old, at the most — if it still stands, it’s around its 100th birthday these days. [more]

Scary House In The Woods

Monday, October 15th, 2007

I really don’t have any proof that this house is haunted, or contains a murderer, or was built on an indigenous-peoples burial ground, but it sure looks Halloweeny. [more photos in this series]

Halloween in the 1960s

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Greetings from Vintage Halloween, 1960s! This came from a set of slides that belonged to a family living on a West-Central Minnesota farm during the mid-20th-century. I’m not exactly sure what school this was — Georgetown, maybe Felton — but it’s quite a flashback to see schools letting the kids dress up for Halloween in the classroom. Two hobos (three if you count Dr. Jack-O-Lantern in the back), a creepy clown, and a poodle-skirted, bemasked pirate are the more classic, but the kid in the middle with the branded SCUBA-diver costume gets my vote for best costume: I want one.