Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Snap Shots" From the Past

This wooden-covered photo album dates back to the early 1930s. The wood was varnished and painted well from the start, and is in excellent condition. The leather holding the front and back pieces has dried out and one of the knots has broken, but that's an easy fix should I ever decide to do so. The images taped and glued inside are family shots from the 1920s through the early 1950s, literally "snap shots" in time, as the cover type is spelled. These aren't my grandmother's well-composed portraits or landscapes. They are moments caught between family and friends. Somehow some of my own photography was stuck in the back of it—I think my mother tucked my prints here and there to give them some reference. Or because she knew I was the scattered type and might not be able to find them otherwise, lol.

After more than a decade of constant use, my grandmother's first car, her beloved Model T runabout, was parked in one of the barns, replaced by this brand new 1929 Ford Model A. The exposed "A" pillars and low hood date this "Tudor" sedan to the A's first generation, but I haven't seen another A with those large bright wheel centers, literally hub caps, as they cover the lug nuts on the wire wheels. Perhaps they were a dealer accessory. That's the little 4-5 year old Gloria Isabel Sanborn barely peeking out from the driver's seat of her mother's new car. She would go on, of course, to become my aunt Hoohoo.

Snap shot dated October 1941, just a couple of short months away from the start of World War 2. This was taken in the small duck pin bowling alley in town. Hoohoo is seated second from the left, and would have been just turning 16. In fact, her birthday was October 15th, so this may have been a birthday outing. Photos from this period make me think that the young Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney were just outside of the frame, lol.

This is a photograph I shot in 1981, and found in the back of the album. That's my friend Luann, who was an editor at the newspaper I art directed. We were taking lunch at the shore near my parent's house, and it was quite a windy day. She's standing on the precipice of a rock cliff, and though it's really foggy, that's the water stretching out in front of her. She was wearing some sort of loose coat that was being lifted up by the strong winds creating this Batwoman/cape effect. It wasn't planned or posed!


  1. Those are amazing. I, of course, love the Model A picture but all of them are wonderful. In storage I have one of these wooden photo albums that my mother put together of the trip that she and my father took to the national parks in the west in 1938. They travelled by train and she has all the train tickets, park entrance tickets, menus, all sorts of ephemera besides photos of the parks and the group they travelled with, many of whom continued to correspond with Mom for the rest of their lives! I guess it was the trip of my parents' lives since this was while both were working and they didn't have kids yet. I guess they were doing pretty well. In 1939 they bought a new B-body Pontiac, the only NEW car we had until the 60s. Then in 1941 they bought our house and Mom retired to have my brother. In those days a blue-collar worker (my Dad was a UPS driver) could own a house, have kids and a wife that stayed at home, send kids to college etc. it was a different time and your pictures capture it perfectly!

    Paul, NYC

    P.S. -- I think the wooden album was purchased on the trip -- I haven't seen it in a while, but I believe it says Yellowstone on the front.

  2. Those are great mementoes, Paul! I'd love to scan the tickets and paper goods from that trip you mention. I love the typography and graphics of that period. That was when there was a burgeoning middle class. It wasn't what it would become in the postwar period, but as you said, it was a time when one income was enough to live comfortably and raise a family. We are SO far from that these days, it's incredible.

  3. That bottom photo is really cool. Would make a great cover for a book or as the basis for a novel.


  5. thank you! i used to go everywhere with my trusty Nikon film camera. Working at the newspaper meant I could have every roll developed and contact sheeted easily,