Friday, September 2, 2016

More memories...

More memories ... from my mom's photo collection.

Here's a photo of my sister Holly, an undated studio portrait.  The original is 3" x 5", larger than most of the photos in the collection, so the resolution is better.  There's a longer-than-usual note on the back, in my mom's handwriting (fountain pen):
love this!  she wouldn't smile because her teeth weren't in - ha ha!  Dress was given to her by Mrs. R. W. Johnson - silk taffeta, pink
The Mrs. Johnson she's referring to is Evelyn, the third wife Robert Wood Johnson II, the son of the founder of Johnson & Johnson, and the Chairman of the Board for years.  My dad extensively landscaped their “Longleat” estate in Princeton, New Jersey.  The original landscaping was unremarkable, and Mrs. Johnson was looking for something extraordinary.  My dad worked there for years, and I often went with him to help – more effectively in later years than earlier.  My brother Scott also went, I believe.  We knew Mr. Johnson as “General Johnson”; I met him a few times, and he was nice enough.  Mrs. Johnson I met quite a few times, and she was always delightful to be around; she obviously enjoyed having kids around.  She worked closely with my dad on the entire landscaping project, and both she and General Johnson were very generous with my folks.  A gift of Johnson & Johnson stock partly financed their retirement.

Here's another photo of Holly, undated and with simply “Holly” on the back, in my mom's handwriting.  That's the front of our house, with the front porch (with a lawnmower on it) we so rarely used.  I'm guessing this was taken in the spring or summer of 1956, from her apparent age.  There's a dog house to the left of the photo; I don't remember that.  We would have had Synda then, and I don't remember her having a dog house; I remember her as mostly being indoors.

This photo shows the entire front of our house, which faced east.  The photo is dated (by the lab) October 1954, which would have been shortly after it was finished.  A few things jump out at me.  First, the magnolia is so small – I remember those as 25' tall trees!  Note the old-fashioned bushel basket on the porch – you don't see those any more at all.  There's a curved walkway from the front door that I have no memory of.  The fence that so puzzled me in other photos is not there – it must have been added sometime after this.  The original very dark brown paint is still on the house (judging by the dark shade).  There's a vent visible to the left of the front porch dormer; that's for the bathroom plumbing.  That bathroom wasn't finished until '56 or '57, and we forever called it the “new bathroom”.  The “old bathroom”, which for several years was our only bathroom, was located on the opposite side of the house, all the way right in this photo (the northwest corner).  I don't know if my siblings remember taking showers in the tiny shower stall in there; it was later removed.

Here's an undated photo with (left-to-right) my brother Scott, my sister Holly, and me.  I remember that table we're perched on, with the ring pulls on the center drawer.  That was taken in our living room.  At first blush I thought Holly was sporting a mohawk, but on careful examination, I think that's a knot in the paneling behind her. :)  It looks like she's holding a pillow or stuffed animal; in either case I don't recognize it.  From our ages, I'm guessing this was taken around late '56 or early '57.

Finally, here's one dated (by the lab) January 1958, surely from our 1957 Christmas.  In the foreground, that's me on the left, my brother Scott on the right.  I have no memory of us ever wearing bow ties at home; I don't know what that's about.  I also have no memory of that collection of plastic animals, or the thing they're being displayed on.  The man in the background is a bit hard to make out, but it's my grandfather Earle Dilatush, my dad's dad.  This was before his awful automobile accident in '60.  The woman's leg at left is almost certainly my grandmother Grace, though it's possibly my great-grandmother Jobes.  This photo was taken in our living room, looking westward out our picture window.  You can see the Christmas tree at right.  Through the window you can see a home, which looks closer than any home I remember in that direction.  The closest home I recall was across our big field to the west, over the railroad tracks, and then a bit further; a family named the Balls lived there.  This house looks close enough to actually be in our big field, and I don't remember any houses there.  The base of a lamp visible to the right of Scott I do remember: heavy metal with a white ceramic ring around the bottom.  I can't account for the expressions Scott and I are wearing. :)

More memories...

More memories ... from my mom's photo collection...

My sister Holly, in an undated photo that's sepia in the original.  On the back, in my mom's handwriting: “Holly”.  The skirts worn by the partially visible girls on the right look as stiff as boards!  This photo was most likely taken in late '55 or early '56.  I have no idea who the others partly in the photo are.

This is one of my brother Scott's off-Christmas birthday parties. The photo is dated (by the lab) December 1955.  Scott would have been 2 that year.  On the back, in my mom's handwriting: “Scott’s July “birthday” party”.  That doesn't match the lab date, so this snap must have been in the camera for a few months before they got it developed.  The location is on the north side of our house; the three kitchen bay windows are visible.  I remember that clunky formica folding table, heavy as heck.  I also remember that cake stand; many a birthday cake was served on that.  I'm sure that's mom's cake on it.  Scott is the shirtless boy near the center of the photo, hands on the cake.  Near the bottom you can see my head from the eyes up, and just left of me is my cousin Jonathan (who lived on the farm with us).  I have no idea who all the other kids are, and I'm a little surprised that we found seven other kids to attend!  Scott was too young for those to have been schoolmates.  Maybe he remembers some of them...

Here I am again, in a photo dated (by the lab) March 1955, when I'd have been two and a half.  That's our house at left, and plainly visible is the fence that I have utterly no memory of.  This section of yard outside our back door (which is the one we mainly used) doesn't match my memories of home at all!  It's clearly winter, and I think that may even be some snow at right.  Looking closely at the swing, those single chains that branch into a pair for each side of the seat – they seem vaguely familiar.  Otherwise, I don't remember that swing set at all.

And me, yet again, in a photo dated (by the lab) December 1955, when I was three.  I'm the kid on the lead pony.  The photo was taken at least a few months earlier, as the leaves are still on the trees.  This is a park of some sort, and I don't remember either it or the pony ride.

This one was taken in our living room; it's dated (by the lab) December 1955.  Visible is the south wall of the living room; our front door would have been to the left, the bedroom hall door to the right.  Left-to-right, the people are my brother Scott, me, and my aunt Bonnie (my mom's younger sister).  The dog is Synda, and what a rush of memories her image brings back!  Aunt Bonnie looks so much younger than my memories of her.  I remember that awesomely ugly lamp.  On the baseboard you  can see the covers for our heating system.  This was a copper pipe with aluminum fins on it for heat radiation; what you see are the cosmetic covers (sheet steel) for that.  The system worked by heating water in an oil-fired boiler in our basement, then pumping it through all these radiators.  Compared to the modern forced-air heaters this system was very quiet; we really only heard it at night.  It also heated the house very evenly.  The equipment for it, down in our basement, was very large by modern standards.  The heating system for my barn has a similar boiler with several times the capacity, but it's perhaps 1/10th the size of the one we had.  I remember being with my dad as he troubleshot problems, or changed it's settings; I especially remember the glass window through which we could see the big orange-and-blue flame from the burning oil below the heavy cast iron boiler tubes.  That odd light-colored chair in the foreground looks alien to me; I have no memory of it at all.

Finally, here's another photo of that fishing boat trip off of Cape Cod.  It's dated (by the lab) June 1955; on the back in my mom's (fountain pen) handwriting: “Cape Cod fishing boat”.  That's me looking down into the barrel, and I think that's my brother Scott just to the left of me in the photo.  I have no idea who the little girl is, nor the adults visible.  I'm struck by the design of the bench visible on the left: it's simple – no fancy mortise-and-tenon joints required – and sturdy, very similar to some Shaker bench designs.  This sort of wooden furniture design isn't often seen these days, but we had a lot of things like this on our farm.  You could build something strong with just a hammer and saw.  The benches in our greenhouse were built much like this, mostly by Julius Mate, who helped a great deal in the greenhouse.