Post 614: shadow man and the little boy…

Take a look at these photos, taken sometime toward the middle of the 1940s, during WWII.

The place: My maternal grandmother’s front yard. The family lived in the second story apartment there until completing a house on Mississippi in 1951. The little boy is my older brother, wearing as spiffy an ensemble as I’ve ever seen him in! My brother is a Levis and Nebraska Huskers t-shirt kind of guy now, and he wears a baseball cap. My guess is it’s springtime, and my brother is playing with a Christmas wheelbarrow. I need to ask…!

dads shadow and dick2

“Shadow man” is my father, wearing a civilian hat, so I guess this was a Sunday. My Dad was Chief of Police in this town, and most photos of him then show him in uniform. The town had a major air base training people for the glider and parachute aspects of the D Day invasion. My Dad worked very hard then because he had a small staff meant for a smaller town and thousands of soldiers with not much to do after training but come into town. Many married the mothers of my friends growing up. No coincidence!

Anyway, this is a favorite photo of Dad because it shows him relaxed, off duty, and doing what fathers do: taking photos of their little guys at play. And…accidentally getting themselves in the photo, if as a shadow. Or maybe it was on purpose. Dad’s gone — he died on election day 2008 — but he was a very purposeful, methodical man. There is a suggestion of a composed shot here.


Then, there is this second shot in the sequence, a more spontaneous yet more mysterious image. Same setting. Same brother. Same father taking a photo as a shadow man.

There’s a change in angle, though, one brought about by my brother’s burst to go to Dad. Dad takes another shot, capturing something I’d never noticed in this photo before: a third person standing by the locust tree, both shadows on the left, while the photo’s taken.

dads shadow and dick1

It appears to be a male. Or is it? Who might it be, this new “shadow man”? Yet, he appears higher in the photo than he should were he just standing by the tree. Was he actually a child, a child standing on the bird bath by that tree? If a child, did Dad know he was standing on the birdbath? I don’t think that was generally allowed…! We’ll never know.


Post 613: I don’t remember much about then…

Family photos sometimes form the only memory we have of times and places we’ve been. Seems obvious. Yet, looking through some family photos taken before I was born, I saw a past that never existed for me. It is an odd place to be!

The paternal grandparents.

The paternal grandparents.

Her name was Mary. The little girl in the photo, the older of my two sisters, is Marijean, whose name is a combination of this grandmother’s first name and “Jean”, our mother’s first name. I got my paternal grandfather’s name for my middle name: “George”. This photo has to be from the WWII era, and the house appears to be one on Sweetwater Avenue, one of many where my father’s family lived before my grandparents retired to Englewood, Colorado, where I met.  them.

They were from Missouri. Salem, Missouri, to be specific, which is in the southeast part of that state. It was where they met. Their families both farmed.

At some point, a sister encouraged my grandfather to come to Nebraska. Cambridge, Nebraska, in the south central part to the state, on the Republican River. Her husband owned and ran the “The Kaleidoscope” newspaper, a man of substance. My grandfather lived with them for a time and got a job helping build the railroads of Nebraska west. That was how he and the family ended up in Deadwood, Newcastle, and Alliance, where the photo was taken.


Our Scottish immigrant maternal grandmother.

Our Scottish immigrant maternal grandmother, with a couple “wee fairts”

Mom’s mother was a hoot! If our Gram in Englewood was serious and spoke with a soft southern accent, as I remember her, our maternal grandmother was known to take off to Denver to visit her sister Margaret (“Aunt Maggie”), who lived in a mansion on High Street. Aunt Margaret was a hoot, too! She’d get Gram to drink mixed drinks, convincing her they were not alcoholic. At least that was what we were lead to believe. The two were best buddies!

I remember Aunt Margaret’s parrot Polly, who ate tea, egg, and toast from a spoon it held in it’s claw. Pretty exotic as pets go, and one of the treats of visiting Gram’s sister. The other was an endless supply of Seven-Up pop, a treat in those days, a luxury we rarely had at home. She didn’t have a pronounced accent, but our grandmother had a thick Scottish brogue.

My brother can duplicate that accent pretty well, I think, because he’s a clever fellow! Myself, I remember words she used, or how words she used sounded to me. “Girl” sounded like “gettle”. “Candy” sounded like “gundy”, and she had a terribly insatiable sweet tooth. I was in my 40s before it struck me, that I had an epiphany and finally realized  what my Church of Scotland-proper maternal grandmother was speaking of when she referred to “wee fairts” (“children”, usually meaning my siblings and me…) was “little farts”! Grandmother…! For shame!

My poor sister Marijean got this grandmother’s first name as her middle name, with a small spelling change.

The photo was taken in the mid-1940s. Our grandfather died of cancer in 1940, so only one of us has much sense of what he was like. He was a master carpenter on the railroad. My brother got his first name for his middle name: Murdoch! My mother’s family, too, moved around to many of the same places my father’s family did during those early days of the 20th Century when area railroads built up.


That's me in the buggy. Richard and Kathy, my other siblings treated me well.

That’s me in the buggy. Richard and Kathy, my other siblings, treated me well. “Spoiled me”, more like it!

That’s Laddie, my maternal grandmother’s dog. He and I both were born in the same year. His mother had papers, and his father had his nerve, the mutt! The puppies, consequently, weren’t suitable for sale. Nonetheless, Laddie was a loyal and relentless guard of the baby in the buggy. He was a good dog! When I got my dog Peanuts in 1959, he and Laddie had issues. They never did become buddies, which disappointed me. Though I don’t remember this scene in my grandmother’s backyard, I have this photo. It makes me happy!