This image was poorly exposed and blurry; I had to squeek out as much as I could using Photoshop — I’ll bet the young lady being tortured in this photo was happy to see that this photo didn’t turn out originally…but she had no idea that 70 years later somebody on a computerized internet would blog about it (I’m not sure she could even parse that last phrase.) I personally love the unposed, candid photos like this one: look at what has been tossed out because it was unfit for photo albums; today is even worse, when you can completely delete an image, permanently, without thinking twice. People who stick to stiffly posed photos are missing out on the vibrant art that can come from an unplanned, quick and dirty photo. The photo above has so much going on in it — the wrestling in the foreground, and what are they stealing from her? The friendly grouping on the far right, who look like they might otherwise not be photographed as in that same grouping because there’s no logical reason to do so. The guy hunched over in the distance, leaning inside an open car door. When people are posed in a stiff, unlively manner, something is lost — I’ll bet Bertha was a far more fun person than this photo would lead the casual viewer to believe.
Whistler’s Mother (otherwise known as Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1) is an iconic image in our culture, recalling a Victorian silence and respectability. Mrs. Melby’s Mother, above, spent Halloween 1960 at a bowling alley. My, how times change is a little less than a century! Not quite as much as you may think, though — the style of dress is similarly modest, although Mrs. Melby has gone stocking-free and is showing a little ankle. Her chair is similarly spartan, although anyone who attended a high school built earlier than 1960 is probably intimately familiar with such folding seats; many a small finger has been bit by those steel hinges while screwing around during an oh-so-important school assembly in the auditorium.
This photo is captioned “At Mt. Tello“. The rest of the series are from Wisconsin, so I assumed there must be a Mount Tello somewhere in the area. Google, sadly, has no results, but it sounds so familiar…Mt. Tello…Tello Mountain…Mount Tello — and a light turns on above my head. Along Highway 23 in central Wisconsin is a small town on a lake/river: Montello. Ruth must have asked, ‘where was this taken?’ and misunderstood the answer.
Say ‘hi’ to Larry & Ruth Smith, frequenters of the Pfister Hotel. This was taken in February 1957, along with several other photos I’ve uploaded. This photo has the best view of the trompe l’oeil wallpaper in the Pfister. A different wallpaper is visible in other photos, but this the best view of any of them. And it is wallpaper – you can see the seam just over the lady’s right shoulder, and note how the wall in the distance doesn’t line up between. The wallpaper artist used the ivy-wrapped columns to both hide the seam and create a ‘break’ to obscure varying views put side-by-side; my guess is that this paper (probably spendy) was sold with numerous vignettes, intended to be randomly juxtaposed for a more natural look. It was designed to be applied with a wainscoting, to leave the view appropriately at eye-level, and was probably quite expensive at the time. The Pfister was a classy place, though — it was worth it.
Here, to the right, is Ruth. She once had a photo album of her life in the late 1930s, which I’ve started scanning recently. On the second page of the album, she has a series of captioned photos captioned as a dramatis personae, identifying the players in her life. Her self-portrait includes several nicknames — “Fatty Q” being one of them. While not the lithest of ingenues, Ruth isn’t obese, so that might be why she’s accepted the nickname without offense. The nickname of ‘Skipper’ is interesting, too. The two things we associate ‘skipper’ with — the fat guy on Gilligan’s Island, and Barbie’s sister — were decades away from Ruth’s life. Captaining a boat was the main definition, although ‘one who skips’ could mean she either has a slight jump in her step, or maybe she prefers to avoid going to class. Either way, Ruth has two 1930s nicknames that she was proud enough to own to save it for her kids to see: I hope she was still as proud of them years later.
Well, here we’ve got an entirely different view of the Harbor Freeway (compared to a few weeks ago). California’s pride in their municipal freeways was immense: in theory, they provided an escape from the crowded streets of other metropolitan areas, and allowed for relaxing suburban living while working in the city. Today, we see this as Sprawl, a bad thing, but in the sixties it was The Way Of The Future.
I know I’ve been picking on North Dakota for its scenic vastness, but is this so much better? Back in the 1960s, California was so proud of its freeway system that — like Arizona with its Grand Canyon, South Dakota with its Mount Rushmore, New York with its Niagara Falls — they released a set of collectible slides documenting the Los Angeles Freeway System. MARVEL at the expanses of concrete and pavement! SMELL the pollution wafting up from the vehicles! CRINGE IN TERROR at how close those two cars are in the third lane from the left! Oh, I kid — unlike where I live, you can actually see some hills off towards the horizon. Between here and there, however, is a concrete jungle. I still prefer here.