Sunday, February 21, 2010

The ancestor of Snapfish, Shutterfly, Picasa and the like. Eaton's was the source of many good things and now we know where the Strachans were getting their postcards made. I expect they were developing their own film in a kitchen dark room.

The date is March, 1920. Minitonas, Manitoba. The family is moving to their own place now because it is what passes for spring in the high north, though you'd need one of those photo calendars from Eatons to know it. It's clear that no one fussed about plowing the road, but cars and trucks -- to say nothing of wagons -- had more clearance then and the going was probably better with the ground frozen and snow on top than with newly thawed mud. I love this sort of gate, though it's a simple matter of having to put a pole across the top to keep the two side-posts from gradually spreading until the gate doesn't fit anymore. Few can resist putting some sort of name or decoration at the top? (These days they are incredibly detailed silhouettes cut in steel by lasers.) I don't suppose "The Ponderosa" would work. The photographer (my father) wrote on the back "hoarfrost" which looks like "hoorfrost," but I don't suppose either of them would work either. Their principal crop was potatoes, so maybe "Spud." Proudly.

I see now that this house has a fancy pane at the top of the front window. Some salesman was right on the ball. Note how the dirt is banked up around the bottom of the house to keep the seam between foundation and sill sealed. I should try that here. The photographer was again trying to capture the magic of hoarfrost, which we have had in Valier this winter so much that it's no longer so appealing.

This is one of my favorite photos in this album because it is such an illustration of a tight-knit family in modest circumstances countered by a bookcase with its ornate clock on top. That clock is still in the family somewhere. The camera is hanging on the wall to the far right, carefully folded into its leather case. The pretty blonde typist is my Aunt May, whose daughter looks just like her. My father, Bruce the family scholar, is sitting at the table. The boy, Glenn, with the book on his lap turned out to be a California realtor in Santa Ana in boom years. The youngest boy is Seth, who would be the pilot who flew the top US editors and journalists into Germany at the request of President Truman, who felt that no one would believe the concentration camps unless they saw for themselves. Indeed, there are still people who refuse to believe it. Seth grew into a big man who loved flying, even if it was bombers, and who had a long career with TWA and ended up in Pebble Beach, CA. These four people are long gone and some of their children as well. But in this room is the root of the family mythology.

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