Monday, June 1, 2015

Some old pictures I didn't take: Holiday

Mom and Mae Smith, location unknown, late '30s

MY MOM WITH HER BEST FRIEND, MAE SMITH. I'm sure they met at Kodak or the church. Growing up I called her "Aunt Mae," even though I knew she wasn't a relative. She was a spinster who lived in an apartment in a triplex on Guestville Avenue, just a short walk from the Kodak plant.

She had a brother, Jim, who had a sergeant major's moustache and a very military bearing; I remember him in blue blazers with a crest. They were always around when I was growing up, and then they fade away from my memory around the time Mom got really sick.

Judging by the clothes and the film stock, this is some time in the late '30s, at a picnic or a holiday camp somewhere. I'm guessing the latter - I have at least a half dozen frames taken on vacation, my Mom posing with her mother and various friends on docks and in a canoe and by cottages, with water somewhere in view or implied in the vicinity.

From the looks of it, the Depression didn't take a tragic toll on my mom and her friends. They were that small but lucky part of the working class that continued working; my mom was employed at Kodak from the late '20s till just before my brother was born, at the end of the war, and even if she was supporting her parents for most of that time, she found ways of keeping her wardrobe fresh.

Holidays were occasions. I'm sure my mom bought clothes especially for the trip, and even if you didn't work for Kodak, it was an obligation to document yourself at leisure, in various combinations with whoever was either guest or host.

I try not to romanticize the past, but it's hard, especially when I see the dignity of almost everyone captured in the foreground or background of these photos. I'm sure you'd be forgiven for taking off your tie on a hot day, and the jacket might end up on the back of a deck chair, but it would have been unthinkable to show up dressed like a sloppy schoolboy or in what was considered underwear.


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