Archive for December, 2010

I scanned more old photos last night. More clues and some nice images (after I cleaned them up and did some creative cropping). I was wrong about grandmom’s and Willie’s ages.

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This photo shows grandmom with three of her children. Martie Ann was born in 1917. She’s the shy wee one on the left — holding on to grandmom. Rita was born in 1915 and Willie was born in 1913. I’d say that this photo was taken in 1919 (plus or minus) which would make grandmom 31 and Willie 6. I’m guessing here of course but close enough.

The original photo was double exposed on the right. I cropped it as much as I could, cleaned it up and adjusted the tonality. I’m pleased with the result. The image may not be technically perfect but it is very expressive. I know mom will love it. I do.

I have dozens of photos scanned now. Once I run them all through Picture Window I should have enough images for the photo book I’m working on. Shhh. I have a Christmas surprise for mom. I made a DVD slide show of some of the early images that she can watch on her TV. Mom doesn’t have a computer. She claims she’s too old to start now. Well she has a TV.

Modern technology gives me the tools I need to enhance and preserve the old family photos. It’s amazing what you can do with a good flatbed scanner (I have an Epson V600 now), a good photo editor and lots of patience.

One of these days I’ll get back to posting more of my own photography. Meanwhile, I’ll continue sharing the past and there’s lots more to come.

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Grandmom: Young Farm Wife

When I knew grandmom she was an excellent cook. Before she married and moved to the farm, Frances never cooked (she didn’t know how) or washed her own clothes because she lived in a household where the ‘help’ took care of everything.

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In this photo, with the old stone farmhouse as a backdrop, grandmom was about 29 years old. The boy in the background is Willie, her first born. He was born in 1913 and looks to be 3 or 4 years here which places the photo about 1916 or 1917. Grandmom turned 30 in November 1918.

She certainly looks happy in this photo. We know she adapted well to farm life. The only indoor plumbing was a pump at the kitchen sink, washing machines were women with tubs and washboards, clothes hung out to dry. Back in those days human labor did all the work. Grandmom went from “how do I boil water?” to mastery in the kitchen.

Three of grandmom’s children were born on the farm. My mother, the baby of the family, was born in 1922 after the family moved to Philadelphia.

I’ll visit a few more images from the farm years before moving to life in the city. Stay tuned…

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Grandmothers weren’t always old ladies. My Grandmom was 56 when I was born. That’s not old but, to a kid, anyone who isn’t a kid is old, so grandparents must seem ancient. My mother lived with my sister for a few years when mom was in her late 60s. One day my nephew said to her: “You’re old grandmom. You’ll probably be dead by this time next year.” Ouch! That was 20 years ago and she’s still going strong.

Portrait of Young Frances (click to enlarge)

Here’s a terrific portrait of Frances K. Sullivan, my grandmother, when she was a young woman. When I found this image, I suspected it might have been grandmom but I wasn’t sure. When my sister Joanne saw the picture, she said to her husband: “That’s my grandmother.” After comparing the photo to later images, I’m convinced. The clincher is the cross she’s wearing in the portrait. It was given to her by Monsignor Rafferty. I remember that cross. It was gold with inlaid seed pearls.

The portrait isn’t dated but it was probably taken prior to 1911, before she married. Her outfit is elegant, certainly not the clothes she wore when she became a farmer’s (my grandfather, William J. Sullivan) wife.

When Auntie rescued young Frances she wasn’t kidding. Uncle Harry had some serious money and Frances was raised as a ‘proper lady’. I’ll get to the farm soon. I have a nice snapshot of grandmom as a young mother with her first born against the backdrop of the big old stone farmhouse.

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Grandmom was raised by her Aunt and Uncle, Frances and Harry Clifton. Here’s a scan of an old photo of Auntie — the back of the photo identifies Auntie as Francy Clifton and the location as Doublin Gap (now an MX park in Shippensburg, Pa?). The young man could have been Grandmom’s brother Horace — we don’t know.

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Whoever took this photo had a good eye for composition and the moment. I wonder if it was posed?

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Here’s another shot of Auntie. She does look rather stern here doesn’t she. She wasn’t. In fact, Auntie was a caring woman who loved her family. So how did she ‘rescue’ grandmom?

Grandmom’s father died in a tragic accident and the family: Cora (my great-grandmother), Frances (my grandmother)and Martha (her sister) were living in a small Pennsylvania town in less than ideal circumstances. Their brother Horace was away in a boarding school for fatherless boys.

One day when Auntie came to visit, she noticed that grandmom had an infected, abscessed cut that wasn’t healing. Auntie announced that she was taking grandmom home with her and she did.

Auntie and her sister Cora were a study in contrasts. Cora’s family was poor by all accounts. Auntie never married. She and her brother, Harry Clifton, raised grandmom in a loving and prosperous home. Grandmom said she never so much as ironed a handkerchief. That is until grandmom married a farmer…

(to be continued) LOL

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I was searching for a photo of my grandmother that would do her justice, a photo where the real person shone through. I wanted a good image of her for the title page of the second edition of “The Collected Recipes of Frances K. Sullivan” that I (editor) finally finished this week — a full 23 years after the first edition.

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Do you believe in serendipity? Synchronicity? I do. I found this photo, the perfect image in an old suitcase in my mother’s garage. This is grandmom as I remember her. The photo was taken in May, 1949. The cute kid is me when I was a wee lad of four and a half years. Grandmom was a vital 60 year old.

As I went through the collection of old family snapshots, I found images of grandmom as a young mother, as a ‘mature’ woman with a growing family and as a grandmother. I found photos of other people I knew that were taken when they were younger. I got to thinking about how our mental images of the people around us characterize them as they are now (or how we knew and remember them), forgetting that they were young once.

I accumulated quite a collection of wonderful pictures from the past while editing the cookbook. I included 21 in the book and will publish these on The Aware Writer as a series. I’ll share my thoughts and I’ll probably write a few tutorials illustrating my adventures with my new flatbed scanner and how I was able to rejuvenate old images with PWP. Stay tuned…

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