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Archive for the ‘Photographs’ Category

This week’s Sepia Saturday has a kissing theme, and I have just the photo in my collection:

My parents on Christmas Day in 1955

My parents on Christmas Day in 1955

I don’t see any mistletoe in the photograph, but it was Christmas day! My parents were not married yet – that would happen in about four months. I love the detail in the background of the photo – this was my paternal grandparents’ house. Note the 1950’s decor with the flowered wallpaper and flowered carpeting, upholstered wing chair with doilies on the arms, the steam radiator, and an ashtray stand next to the chair. I wish there were more photos from other parts of the living room! (There is another of my parents and aunt sitting together on the sofa – my mother must have had a change of clothes, because she is wearing a different dress but my father is dressed the same.) I also love the fabulous velvet dress on my Mom and the suit and tie on my Dad.

I would have to ask to be certain, but my guess is that my aunt took the photograph. She was 13 years old, and isn’t it just like a teenaged sister to annoy her big brother by taking a photo of him kissing his girl? Heck, I think I remember doing the same exact thing to my brother and his girlfriend about 25 years later when I was 13 and he was 21!

2012.12W.02

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This is a great photograph of my mother in 1950. She was only 14 years old yet to me she looks glamorous and sophisticated. But what’s funny about this photo is that my mother always said she never really learned how to ride a bike. I saw her ride one once, but she was a bit unsteady and gave up quickly. Even if it’s not her bicycle, you have to admit it makes a nice fashion accessory!

Posted for Sepia Saturday #138

 

 

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The following article first appeared on January 9, 2010 for my The Humor of It…Through a Different Lens column for Shades of the Departed magazine.  footnoteMaven has graciously allowed me to reprint my Humor of It articles here on What’s Past is Prologue.While these were my “top ten photo resolutions for 2010″, they can apply to 2011, too.  Besides, who keeps the resolutions they make? We can merely recycle them from year to year!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Beginning a new year is a time for reflection when most people think back on the previous year and try to challenge themselves to improve various faults and foibles.  Of course, before beginning a new year we have to end the previous one, and that’s usually a time for partying.  Therefore, most of our resolutions to change ourselves may have been half-heartedly assembled in the throes of a party-induced hangover, which is why these great ideas tend to fizzle out quicker than a cheap sparkler.  So take your time before making resolutions – think about it!  To help you out, I’ve decided to come up with my top 10 resolutions specifically for Shades of the Departed readers, so they are all related to photographs.  But they are also written by me, the resident humor columnist, so…let’s just say you might want to think about these as well before making any final resolutions!

10 – If you are photographing a group of children, add a “silly face” photo in the session.  It will keep them interested, less cranky, and may even make them smile for more photos.  Plus, they’ll be laughing at the silly photo for years to come.  That is, until they reach the age when they begin dating and you share it with their prospective paramour…then it’s not so funny.

 

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ262-128224

 

9 – Don’t wait – get all of those damaged photos restored.  I recently had a professional restore an old photograph of my mother as a child with her older sister and parents.  My mother commented, “I haven’t seen the photo look like this for sixty years!”

8 – Pay attention to the background in your photos – or even the foreground – so your shot doesn’t have any distractions from the main subject.

7 – Remember to “strike a pose” for a memorable shot!

 

 

6 – Be creative and have fun with your photography!  Consider creating optical illusions with some forced perspective shots to liven up your vacation album.

5 – Remember that pets are people, too.  They really don’t enjoy dressing up in costumes any more than people do – except they are less vocal about it.  Come to think of it – your babies are people, too.  They will show their displeasure by their expressions, but remember that they will get vocal about it once they’re old enough to talk!

4 – When it takes forty or fifty tries to get the kids to a) sit still, b) look at the camera, c) smile, and d) do a, b, and c all at the same time, it is okay to delete some of those motion-blurred, crying, and cranky shots.  Save a few though – they could prove useful to embarrass those children fifteen years later. (Also see #10)

3 – Since you are always the one taking photos, make sure you get some of yourself.  Only ask someone else to take it – unless you have very long arms or a timer on your camera, most self-portraits are not very flattering.

 

Image designed by footnoteMaven

 

2 – Keep shoes in shoeboxes, not your photographs.  Get them out of the boxes – and off of your hard drives – and into frames or albums to display around your home or office.  Don’t be too busy taking photos to remember the joy in looking at them and remembering the fun.

And the number one photo resolution is –

The Cross Counter, which is useful for mugging your relatives. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress LC-USZ62-105001

1 – Forget mug shots – mug your relatives for copies of family photos!  Are you, like me, tired of waiting for family members to dig out those precious photographs you’ve heard so much about but have never seen?  It’s time to take matters into your own hands.  I resolve to sit on doorsteps until they find the photos and reveal them to me.  I have a feeling some of my cousins may be entering the Relative Protection Program, a distant cousin of the Witness Protection Program, that seeks to protect the innocent from a hungry photograph-hound like myself.  But hey, I’m a genealogist, so I ought to be able to track them down!

#

All photographs from the collection of the author except as noted.

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The following article first appeared on May 30, 2009 for my The Humor of It…Through a Different Lens column for Shades of the Departed.  Of course, the subject was “in season” at the time, but I’ve decided to re-print my columns in the order they were published.  footnoteMaven has graciously allowed me to reprint my Humor of It articles here on What’s Past is Prologue.  I’m currently on hiatus writing this column for Shades, but I encourage you to visit the latest edition of the digital magazine for some excellent writing and photography!

As May leads into June and the sweet promise of summer, I am reminded of two spring and summer “rites of passage” of my youth that were also big photographic events: proms and graduations. Both events require you to wear somewhat “unnatural” clothing – that is, outfits you will never again wear in public. Because of these outfits, the photos of these events are often seen as humorous many years later.

My brother parodies the classic prom pose in 1985.

The unnaturalness of a prom is the fact that you dress up in wedding-like costumes of tuxes and gowns, yet you are warned by every adult in your life to refrain from all things lewd, dishonorable, romantic, and/or fun. In other words, you dress like you’re getting married but can’t do anything that would be associated with an actual marriage event. Nearly everyone who attended a prom has the obligatory photos taken at either your house or your date’s house or both. Often there is a shot of several couples who have decided to drive together, usually because only one lucky person had the license and the car. In these group shots, the couples look uncomfortable and anxious to go have some fun. Of course, they also look blinded by flashbulbs in what was likely the thirty-second photograph taken of them before even leaving the house.

My face is frozen into a smile…can we leave now?

Once at the prom, couples lined up for their “official” prom portrait. These are often the most humorous because you are put into the official Prom Shot position, an unnatural pose that you and your date will never find yourselves in unless you are standing way too close together while you wait in a buffet line.

Does anything say “1977” quite like a white tuxedo?

The best thing about these photos is that they seem to become dated almost immediately. They “depreciate” faster than driving a new car off of the lot. Looking back at the “old” hairdos and fashions is a scream, especially if your children or nieces and nephews find your ancient photos. In my junior and senior prom photos, I appear to have lived during the Victorian age since I am wearing decidedly un-cool dresses that barely showed my neck much less anything lower. What’s funny is not the fact that my mother chose these dresses for me, but the irony of it. I was not in need of any protection from the wandering hands or eyes of my dates – both were good friends who had already decided to enter the seminary after high school. My prom dates became Catholic priests! Well, at least I didn’t tempt them in those outfits!

With the future Fr. Rob in 1984 and the future Fr. Lou in 1985. Yes, I had a reputation, but it was the reputable kind – “Dance with Donna and you’ll enter the seminary!”

When it comes to uncomfortable poses, nothing beats a good graduation photograph. The classic portrait of the graduate wearing a judge-like gown and a “mortarboard” cap has not changed much over the years. In fact, you might even have a hard time dating a graduation photograph if it weren’t for hairstyles changing over the years, or perhaps styles of eyeglasses. The trick with these portraits is the ability to balance the board on your head – without messing up the “do” – and look natural in the process.

Father and son graduate high school 25 years apart.

It somehow seemed easier for the boys to look more natural than the girls wearing the silly hat, perhaps because they were far less concerned about their hair. For my portrait, the photographer chose a very large cap and used a clothespin in the back to hold it in place. As with any portrait, the photographer then turns your head in an odd angle and your torso in another. The fact that it was portrait day was stressful enough! “How’s my hair?” “How’s my face?” “OMG is that a zit?!” It doesn’t really matter how you look – later generations will laugh at your photo anyway.

Graduating Class of St. Peter’s Grade School, Philadelphia, PA, 1948.

Next week I’ll watch my oldest niece attend her first big “dance” – not quite a prom since dates, gowns, and tuxes are not required. Two weeks later, I’ll watch her don the funny hat and graduate from 8th grade. As the proud aunt, I’ll take a lot of photos. They will all be quite serious. But I’ll have to remind her that she’ll see the humor it them years later – when she is old enough that she thinks she looks like a baby in those photos! Happy dancing and graduating to all, and remember to smile for the camera!

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My grandmother, Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski, with her children James and Jean in front of their Philadelphia home.  Note the spiffy pants on my dad!

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The following article first appeared on March 28, 2009, as my debut appearance writing The Humor of It…Through a Different Lens column for Shades of the Departed.  footnoteMaven has graciously allowed me to reprint my Humor of It articles here on What’s Past is Prologue.  I’m currently on hiatus writing this column for Shades, but I encourage you to visit the latest edition of the digital magazine for some excellent writing and photography!

When I was a child, I assumed that photography was an art form beyond the reach of mere mortals. It just had to be the most complicated thing in the whole world. But I didn’t think that way because of the “magical” nature of taking photos and seeing a two-dimensional image of yourself and your surroundings. No, I believed photography was a difficult endeavor because in most of our family photos we were missing our heads or other body parts.

Here is a typical photo session at the Pointkouski household, Christmas, 1968:

This is a family portrait of all four of us taken by my grandmother. The ear is my father. My brother didn’t make it at all except for the tiny hand on my shoulder. But that’s a lovely sofa, isn’t it?

Dad took this shot…we’re all almost in it!

Okay, Dad, I’m ready for my close-up! Even at not-quite-two-years-old, I was a child prodigy. You see, I had already learned the secret of how to get into a family photo – sit on the left. If you weren’t on the left, you didn’t get in!

By now, my brother has caught on. He’s slowly sliding me over on the coffee table. If he had slouched a little, he might have made it.

This photo had the borders cut off for some unknown reason, but it’s clear by our smiles that we’re elated – we just knew that by the thirtieth picture we’d both make it in the shot! Well, almost make it into the shot – my brother’s just a tad bit too tall to make it.

What’s funnier about these photos – the pictures themselves or the fact that my family actually saved them all these years? What exactly was the thought process here? “Well, it’s not too bad…look, you can see this is him by his left ear…” For families in the pre-digital age, even a bad photo became the sole remnant of a memorable event. Cameras, film, and developing were expensive! And you never saw the result until the whole roll of film was used up, taken to get developed, and picked up. So, at least in my family, these “bad” photos became as valuable as “good” ones because they were the only ones.

My mother quickly became dissatisfied with the results of her unique photographic talent for taking photos of her beheaded children. She simply gave up. I don’t think I ever saw her take another photo. “I can’t take pictures” became her personal mantra. Thereafter, Dad became the official family photographer. It was probably a good thing, too, because without mirrors in the home I would have grown up believing that I was missing an ear.

Mom was always blamed for the missing body parts, but Dad was an occasional culprit, too. Just because Dad was taking the photos, we still weren’t immune from having our heads cut off. It just happened less frequently than back when Mom was taking the photos.

This was my sixth birthday party. My guests were my friends and neighbors, the Ferguson girls. Unfortunately, Shona wasn’t as smart as her older sister, or she had yet to catch on to our family secret – stay to the left!

It’s ten years later and I’m now sixteen. I’m perfectly centered, but the view of the cake took precedence over my head.

I was used to it, though. This was me several years earlier. I was tall for my age, but not that tall! Can you notice the family resemblance between my and my half-headed brother from the earlier shots?

It took many years for me to discover that my family was not unique in this extreme photographic ability. In fact, there is even a name for it! What you see in the above photos is called parallax error. Now, to me that sounds like Star Trek plot number seven in which a transporter accident lands the crew in a parallel universe. But it really means that what you see isn’t always what you get because the viewfinder wasn’t necessarily connected to the lens. Older cameras, especially the inexpensive 126, 110, or point-and-shoot 35mm’s that my family used, had a viewfinder that was separate from the camera’s lens. So what appears to be “framed” in the viewfinder isn’t really framed at all by the camera lens itself, and it isn’t what the lens captures. See, Mom, it’s not your fault after all! It really was the camera!

Here’s another example from the never-before-published photo collection from a well-known genea-blogger who shall remain nameless to protect my new job as a columnist here at Shades. This is an attempt to capture MavenSon’s great catch. But wait – is that really him?

Like our family, which learned to scoot to the left to be seen in photos, the Maven’s learned a technique to keep their heads on – aim for the face only and hold that catch up high! See the result:

Nowadays, you rarely see the beheaded shots anymore. It’s a shame really, because they can be quite amusing. Today, most cameras have a single lens reflex that eliminates the parallax problem because what you see really is what you get. Many digital cameras don’t even have a viewfinder at all and instead use a screen to show you what the lens ‘sees’. When my mother first saw the 3 inch screen on my tiny digital camera, she exclaimed, “Wow – even I can take a picture with that!” And it’s true – my 3-year-old niece is able to take a well-focused, well-balanced photograph (obviously a child prodigy like her aunt). The only time her brother is missing a limb is when she tries to do that the old-fashioned way – by jumping on him to beat him up.

In the modern digital age, it’s time to say good-bye to our beheaded family photos. But, of course, there’s still a chance your family might see one. For even without viewfinder errors, there are still simply bad photographers. Here’s hoping we’ll see you in your next family photo session!

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Two years ago for Mother’s Day I posted a pictorial view of my maternal ancestry.  Today, in honor of Father’s Day, I present the Pointkouski men.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of my great-grandfather Jan Piątkowski.

My Grandfather and Father

My grandfather, James Pointkouski, and my father, James Pointkouski, in 1942.

My Father and Brother

My father and brother, James D. Pointkouski, around 1965.

My Brother and Nephews

The line goes on!  My brother and the two youngest Pointkouski men in 2010.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Genealogists frequently stress the importance of labeling photographs so that future generations know who’s who.  This is true even for our own photographs that we take today.  But while we may forget who are friends were twenty years later, would we forget a relative?  I can now tell you that yes, it’s possible, especially if the photograph in question was taken before you were born.

This past weekend I started a “Bergmeister Family” group on Facebook for all of my cousins.  I asked if anyone had wedding photos of my grandmother’s siblings.  When my cousin posted this photograph of her grandparents, I nearly fell out of my chair.  This is the lovely wedding photo of Joseph Bergmeister and Helen Pardus from 1924:

Joseph Bergmeister and Helen Pardus, 1924

Why was this so surprising?  Because I own a copy of this photo!  In fact, I’ve posted this photo on this very blog.  And in that post, the photo was not identified as my dad’s uncle and his wife, but as my mom’s aunt and her husband!

I called my mother.  “I thought you said that was your Aunt Helen!  It’s Dad’s Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe!”  Without seeing the photo over the phone, she wasn’t sure what to say.  But she did say, “That’s funny, I don’t ever remember seeing a photo of my Aunt Helen.”  Perhaps she identified “Aunt Helen” and I assumed it was her aunt instead of my dad’s.  Whatever the case, I have had this couple misidentified for years!

Sometimes identification of individuals in a photo is tricky.  But my humorous story proves that sometimes you may be wrong even when a relative helps with the identification.  The funniest part of this story is that the photo was previously posted in June, 2009 as the Tiernan-Zawodny wedding.  Several of the Bergmeister-Pardus grandchildren have visited this blog, but they would not have found the photo of their grandparents since it was listed under the “Zawodny” label, so they didn’t notice the error.  What’s even funnier is that I sent the photo to my mother’s cousin who should have recognized – or rather not recognized – the faces.  Even though he is around my mother’s age and, like her, was born well after this photo, he is a blood relative to both the Tiernan’s and the Zawodny’s since one brother-sister combination married another (his parents).  But even he didn’t set me straight.

Sometimes it pays to trust your instinct…I often looked at this photo and had two thoughts.  First, the woman – or rather the woman I thought she was – looked nothing like my grandmother and her sisters.  Of course not, because she’s not related to them!  And second, the man – who I thought I was not related to – looked rather familiar.  Of course he does, because he looks very much like my great-grandfather (his father) and my father (his nephew)!

I didn’t realize I had a “photo mystery” on my hands, but it’s nice to finally find out the truth about this couple!  Now I have to, uh, amend my post about the alleged Tiernan-Zawodny wedding!

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Bring Old Photos Back to Life

Although we can’t bring our ancestors back to life, we can bring photographs of our ancestors back to life!  Not all of us have the unique talents to do this – I certainly do not.  But photo restoration professionals can transform old, scratchy, crumbly photos into “looks like new” photos that can be displayed and admired.

I only have one photograph of my mother’s family, which consists of my mother, her sister, and their parents.  The condition of the photo makes it difficult to even describe it as a photograph.  It appears to be a photographic copy of a photograph that was printed in a home photography studio by my aunt’s first husband.  The date of the photograph is July 4, 1937; the copy would have been made around 1950.  It is in very poor condition:

"Original" unrestored photo of the Pater family on July 4, 1937

In this photo my grandmother is almost 30 years old, my mother is 1 1/2, my grandfather is 25, and my aunt is almost 5.  No other photo of the four together remains.  I have other photographs of my grandfather with his daughters at their weddings, but my grandmother is not in those photos.  I had this crumbling photo for years, and one day I wondered why I never bothered to get it restored to a more acceptable state.  My mother is the last surviving member of the family…wouldn’t it be nice to give her a “fixed” photograph?

Although I have done very minor restoration work on my own computer, such as repairing color fading or minor scratches, the extent of the damage of this photograph obviously required a professional.  I called upon the “Queen Of Restoration,” Janine Smith, of Landailyn Research and Restoration.  Take a look at her beautiful handiwork!

The photograph of the Pater family brought back to life!

I can’t thank Janine enough for all of her hard work on this restoration.  And my mother was quite impressed as well!  In addition to the Landailyn Research and Restoration website, also check out other samples of Janine’s restoration work on her blog, Janinealogy.

Do you have any old family photographs in your collection that are ripped, cracked, torn, wrinkled, faded, or damaged?  You do?  Then what are you waiting for?  Bring those photos back to life!  You will be glad that you did.

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Lux Mundi

The theme for the 7th Festival of Postcards is Light.  The postcard I chose to illustrate this theme is modern, not vintage, but the Light that it portrays is much older!  This postcard was sent to my parents from me in July, 1985 on my now infamous first trip to Rome, Italy.  The image is the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. (click on the image for a close-up view, then hit the “back” button to return here)

This image was taken from the nave near the statue of St. Peter, which is shown in the foreground on the right, and is looking towards the magnificent baldacchino or canopy over the altar.  The reverse of the postcard is as follows:

I wrote: “Dear Mom, Dad, & Drew, We are having a great time – very interesting!  See you soon.  Love, Donna + Louie + Tom.  P.S. I was there” Very interesting? An understatement that only a teenager could make with a straight face.  Though, in retrospect, I probably kept it simple so as not to surprise my mother with the little details that would make her crazy, such as our dump of a hotel or the fact that I was wandering around a large city of foreigners occasionally without adult supervision.

The light shown on the postcard appears to enter the basilica from one of the windows near the dome.  While it may look like an overly dramatic image that was “touched up” to sell postcards, I can assure you that the rays of light entering St. Peter’s is often that dramatic depending on the time of day.  I took this photograph years later from a slightly different position in the basilica and got an equally dramatic effect.  I am standing right by the main altar looking towards the left transept – you can see only the twisted columns of Bernini’s baldacchino but not the canopy itself.

Interior, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome - taken by the author December, 2003.

While the play of light on the interior of the basilica makes for stunning photography (and postcards), I chose this for the “Light” theme for another reason – the presence of Jesus, the Light of the World, that I feel within these walls.  For every time I visit Rome and enter St. Peter’s, I can not help but feel the overwhelming love of God in addition to literally being overwhelmed by the immensity of the building itself.  I am drawn back there time and again.

For more images of the interior of St. Peter’s that also show the incoming rays of light, see the Wikipedia article and Sacred Destinations.

[Submitted for the 7th Festival of Postcards: Light]

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The word prompt for the 20th edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival is Valentine!  Here’s a photo of a couple who were each other’s valentines for a long time – my grandparents.  When the photo was taken, they had been married for 23 years.  James Pointkouski first saw Margaret Bergmeister working at a stored owned by her brother.  He was friends with the brother, and immediately asked him who she was.  Like a typical brother, he replied, “Her? Oh, she’s just my sister” as if that meant she was nothing special.  But she was special to “Jimmy” and he immediately pursued her and eventually married her.  Her brother didn’t mind!

James and Margaret Pointkouski, 1957

Submitted for the 20th Edition of Smile for the Camera: Valentine

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Here are two photographs of World War I veterans.  Both gentlemen married my great-grandmother’s sisters (surname: Slesinski).  The photos contained no identifying information; however, I have identified these men based on labeled photographs taken around 1930 which were featured in a previous post, The Slesinski Sisters: Part 3 – Research Confirmed.

Adolph Majewski

Adolph Majewski

John Smilovicz

John Smilovicz

I thank them for their service to this country, as well as all veterans and military members currently serving in harm’s way.  Thank you!

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The word prompt for the 18th edition of the Smile for the Camera carnival is Travel: show us your family and how they traveled.  Well, that’s a hard one…other than my immigrant ancestors arriving in the U.S. by ship, I don’t know of any other travelers in the family – and I certainly don’t have any photos of them.  I seem to be the first bitten by the travel bug.  Until I remembered that my father did travel – courtesy of the United States Navy!  Here is a photo of him (on the right) and his buddy on their ship, the USS Cadmus.

Dad_Cadmus

Aboard the USS Cadmus, circa 1956-58

The expression the Navy used for recruiting for many years was “Join the Navy and See the World” – in my father’s case, this was true.  He was only in the Navy for two years, but he managed to travel quite a bit.  The USS Cadmus, AR-14, was a repair ship.  She made her first transatlantic crossing in 1957 to Scotland, France, and Spain.  The following year the ship had exercises in the Mediterranean.  My father has very fond memories of his time in the Navy, and he still remembers those ports of call.  It would be the only time my father ever traveled outside of the United States.  Here is a photo of the USS Cadmus:

AR-14

USS Cadmus, AR-14

[Written for the 18th Edition of Smile for the Camera Carnival: Travel]

Related Post: Even and Ocean Can’t Separate a Son’s Love for Mom

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The theme to this month’s Festival of Postcards is “quadrupeds”.  Once again I have managed to find a unique example that meets the theme and also has a connection to my family history.  Here’s a great card that shows a couple of quadrupeds all decked out to celebrate the dog days of summer!

Dogs with ShadesDogs2The text of the postcard reads:

Dear Donna, As you can see from the picture, we’re not the only brother-sister team that can party Hawaiian-style!  Even if the other sisters are cool – they’re not as nice (and kind & intelligent & loving) as you!  Thanks for the CCD material – it really came in handy.  You’re in my thoughts and prayers.  I love you, Drew

As if you could not figure it out, the postcard is from my brother to me.  But the postmark didn’t quite make the card itself, and I couldn’t remember exactly when he sent it to me.  To determine the date of the card, I used the investigative techniques I’ve learned from my genealogical work as well as skills I’ve learned from others about how to date photographs and postcards.  I focused on three distinct areas to estimate the “age” of the card – clues provided by the sender/recipient, the writing or message content, the card itself, and the postage.

First, the sender and recipient – my brother and me.  There were two different times in our lives that my brother sent me letters and postcards because he was living away from home.  The first was a five-year period in the early 1980’s when he was in the United States Marine Corps.  The second was about a five-year period beginning in the late 1980’s when he was serving in a very different type of “corps” – two different seminaries.

Next, I looked at the subject of the text.  At first glance, I assumed the card was sent while he was in the seminary for two reasons – he’s rather, uh, nice and complimentary.  I’m not saying he was rude when he was a Marine, but I remember the seminarian as a kindler, gentler brother!  Also, he mentions me sending CCD material.  CCD stands for “Confraternity of Christian Doctrine” which is a Catholic religious education program for students attending public schools.  On the one hand, I figured my seminarian brother would have more of a need for CCD material than the Marine brother.  But, I was teaching CCD classes during the time my brother was in the Marines.

The next clue came from the postcard itself with a copyright of 1984.  In 1984, my brother was in the USMC and I was teaching CCD classes, so this clearly tipped the scale in favor of that time period.

Finally, the card has a 20-cent stamp.  I looked at The History of Postage Rates in the United States.  This site shows a 20-cent postcard rate beginning in 1995.  By then, my brother was married and not sending me mail, so this was not possible.  I know that when I send a postcard, I sometimes use a “regular” stamp if I don’t have time to go to the post office for a postcard stamp.  Looking at the normal postage rates, the 20-cent stamp was in use from November 1, 1981 to February 17, 1985.

Conclusion: The postcard has a copyright of 1984, the stamp was in issue from then until 1985 (the denomination, anyway – I could have done further research on the design of the stamp itself), I was teaching CCD during that same time period and my brother was in the USMC during that same period, therefore, the postcard was likely sent during 1984.

Even though this was a “recent” postcard and sent directly to me, I gave this example of trying to determine its date not only because I myself didn’t remember, but because it is a good example of how to proceed with following a postcard’s clues to estimate the time period in which it was sent.

More importantly, once again in finding an entry to meet the “challenge” of the Festival, I am reminded of what postcards are all about…keeping in touch with family and friends.  I was in high school when my brother was in the Marines, and it was always a special treat to get a postcard or a letter from him.  I didn’t save all of them, but I did save a few that were special.  I am sure this one made my “save” pile not only because of his loving message, but because of the humor of the card.  In fact, I think he had a Hawaiian shirt just like that one they have on!  I was about to enter my Hawaiian shirt & shades stage (I haven’t left it yet, by the way), so it was particularly fun to receive this one.

[Submitted for the 5th Festival of Postcards: Quadrupeds]

logofestival

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SchoolDaysI recently had the pleasure of posting all of my old grade school class pictures on Facebook for my classmates to see. Many said, “You still have those?”  The others decided it was because I was a genealogist, which is better than being called a pack rat.  I never dreamed I’d find any school photos from my grandparents’ days, but my aunt presented me with this gem – my grandfather’s 8th grade class photo in 1923.  It is the Horatio B. Hackett public school in Philadelphia, which is still educating youngsters today.

Graduating Class of Horatio B. Hackett School, Philadelphia, PA, 1923

Graduating Class of Horatio B. Hackett School, Philadelphia, PA, 1923

My grandfather, James Pointkouski, is in the second row from the top, the second boy to the right.  Here is a close-up:

Pop_age13In this photo he is about a month shy of 13 years old – the  youngest age of any of his photographs.  From what his children said, he loved going to school and did very well.  He would have loved to continue through high school and college, but like many kids in those days he was not able to finish high school because he had to work to help support his parents.

In June I posted the class photo from his son’s 8th grade graduation in 1948.  If I could find a class photo for my brother’s class in 1973 it would make a nice collection of the patrilineal line at the same age.

[Submitted for the 16th edition of Smile for the Camera: School Days.]

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The theme for this month’s Festival of Postcards is Water.  Here’s a fine example of a watery scene from a 1950s French postcard (click on the image for a close-up view, then hit the “back” button to return here):

A postcard showing a map of the French Riviera and the Mediterranean

A postcard showing a map of the French Riviera and the Mediterranean

Water PC 2

The text reads:  “Dear Mother, I could not get a birthday card for you.  I hope this will due.  Happy Birthday.  Jimmy” The postcard was mailed on 07 April 1958 from Nice, France with a lovely 20 franc stamp depicting the shrine at Lourdes.  The text on the card reads (in French): A bird’s eye view from Cannes to Italy.  The card shows a lovely view of the Côte d’Azur.

Jimmy is my father, who was serving in the Navy on a Mediterranean cruise aboard the USS Cadmus (AR-14) during the spring of 1958.  His mother’s birthday was 11 April – I wonder if she got it in time?  It was her 45th birthday – since I am nearing that age it seems too young to have a married son!  I also couldn’t help but wonder if he also remembered to send my mother some wishes via postcard as well.  The date he mailed my grandmother her birthday greeting was the date of my parents’ second wedding anniversary!

[Submitted for the 4th Festival of Postcards: Water]

logofestival

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We were either too poor to take a pony ride or there were no ponies in the city, because there are no “pony pictures” in my family.  But who needs a pony?  Even living in a big city like Philadelphia, we still had some tough cowboys to defend us!  Here’s my favorite photo of my brother:

Gunslinger Drew, 1961

Drew in 1961 - If he could talk, I'm sure he'd quote John Wayne: "Out here a man settles his own problems."

With a gun in one hand, and a bottle in the other, he’s off to save the world.  Or at least prevent his pacifier from being stolen.

[Submitted for the 78th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Pony Pictures]

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BlingEach month footnoteMaven hosts a wonderful carnival of old photos called Smile for the Camera.  Despite the fact that I do not own a plethora of ancestor photos, I have participated every month except for one topic that completely stumped me.  And it looked like I was about to be stumped again this month when I saw the topic for the 16th edition: Bling, Ancestor Bling!  Maven wrote:

I am always drawn to the beautiful jewelry worn by our ancestors in old photographs. The locket that was your Great Grandmother’s treasure, the pocket watch proudly displayed by a male ancestor, the beautiful crosses of old, and the children with their tiny bracelets. While not many of our ancestors were wealthy enough to own multiple pieces of jewelry, there was the one good piece that held sentimental value. Some of us have been fortunate enough to inherit those treasures. Show us a photograph of your ancestor wearing their “Bling,” or photographs of the pieces you have inherited.

I have shown some photos of my great-aunt showing off some bling, but I wanted to use a new photo, never before seen in public.  There’s just one problem with that…my ancestors really weren’t “bling” kind of people.  Or, they were too poor to own any bling!  My mother and I were never really interested in jewelry, and she did not inherit any from her own mother or grandmothers.  So, this carnival will highlight many serious photographs with other’s ancestors displaying wonderful old-fashioned sparkling jewelry.  And then there’s me…  May I present a different kind of bling -

Now that's some serious bling!

Now that's some serious bling!

Ten carnivals ago I showed a photo of my father and his friend, Frank, all dressed up as ballerinas and explained that they participated in parents’ shows at my brother’s high school when I was a child.  This photo shows, from left to right, my mother and father and their friends Lil and Frank.  They are in costume for two numbers in the Archbishop Ryan High School (for Boys) Mothers Association show, Happy Holidays, which took place on November 19-20, 1976.  The show followed the calendar year with skits and dances revolving around the various holidays.

The ladies are dressed for the show’s opening chorus line number to the tune of Happy Holidays and Winter Wonderland.  The fur hats and matching muff look chic extraordinaire and fooled all but the ladies who made them – and myself, who helped.  The hats were made of the bottom of plastic milk cartons covered with cotton!  But doesn’t it look great?  Speaking of great, look how wonderful my Mom looks in her miniskirt – she is 40 years old in this picture!

Displaying far more bling than the ladies are the guys – er, well, the one guy and the guy-playing-the-lady.  They were the hit of the “February” sequence as they transformed into Elton John and Kiki Dee.  The pair lip-synced and danced to Don’t Go Breaking My Heart for Valentine’s Day.  My Dad, as Sir Elton, the king of bling, sports huge heart glasses, some neck-bling, and lots of sequins.  Not to be outdone, Frank gets in touch with his inner comedienne as Kiki – check out those heart earings and the feather boa!  What isn’t revealed in this photo is his plunging neckline and the dress slit “up to here”!  Even in comedy routines, the very masculine Frank always managed to look classier dressed as a woman than some of the women did!

[Written for the 16th edition of Smile for the Camera: Bling, Ancestor Bling!]

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Smile-Work-LGThe word prompt for the 15th edition of the Smile for the Camera carnival is “they WORKED hard for the family.” I rarely post “repeats” here at What’s Past is Prologue.  However, I have to make an exception this time because I have only one photo that is perfect for this carnival, and it is one I have already posted. Other than a photograph at my father at a desk (he was an accountant), this is the only photograph I own of an ancestor at work.  Since it’s such a great photo, I have to show it again:

Grandpop and Truck, 1937

July 18, 1937 - James Pointkouski delivering dairy products to the Silver Lake Inn.

This is my grandfather, James Pointkouski, hard at work as a truck driver/delivery man for Aristocrat Dairy in Philadelphia. For more about his occupation and the truck itself, see the original post from March, 2008, entitled “Got Milk?”

According to his children, Grandpop was a really smart guy who excelled in school.  His dream was to be a draftsman.  That occupation would have required some specialized training and education, but there was not enough money to realize that dream.  Jimmy was the youngest of three children, and his parents were rather old at the time of his birth – his father was 41 years old and his mother was nearly 44!  In 1910, it was very unusual to have a child at those “advanced” ages.  By the time Jimmy was ready to go to high school, his parents needed him to get a job to help the family.  Although both of his parents were deceased by the time my grandfather was 32 years old, it was too late for him to embark on a major career change – especially since he had a family of his own to care for by then.  So it was that Jimmy became a truck driver.  It may not have been his career of choice, but he grew to enjoy it and he took great pride in what he did.

I have another reason for showing off my grandfather’s photo today – today, July 6th, was his birthday!  If he were still alive, he’d be 99 years old.  Unfortunately, he died in February, 1980 at the age of 69.  Happy Birthday, Grandpop, and thanks for working hard for the family!

[Written for the 15th Edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival: They worked hard for the family!]

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This month’s theme for A Festival of Postcards is “Main Street”.  My entry is connected to my family history in a different way than last month’s entry, which featured a card from a grand-uncle sent to my great-grandparents.

München, Germany – Karlstor-Rondell

München, Germany – Karlstor-Rondell

This postcard is from the mid 1990’s, but it shows a vintage photograph of a main street in Munich, Germany.  Unfortunately, the card does not indicate the date of this old photograph.  Judging by the automobiles in the photo, I’d estimate that it was taken between 1900-1920.  This main street is the square known as the Karlsplatz.  Although that has been the square’s official name since 1797, it is often referred to as Stachus after a pub that was torn down due to the construction of the square.  The gate-like structure in the center-rear of the photo is the Karlstor, the gate that remains of the city’s medieval fortification.  If you walk through that gate, you are on a pedestrian-only street that leads directly to the famous Marienplatz, Munich’s central square.  The twin steeples you see in the rear of the photo belong to the Frauenkirche , the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady.

A friend seeks out my family history while studying in Bavaria.

A friend seeks out my family history while studying in Bavaria.

The postcard reads as follows:

7/2/96

Donna-

Misson accomplished!  I think I’ll send 2 though.  Guess what!  The Goethe Institut isn’t as backward as I thought!  I have e-mail capabilities, so you’ll prob. have heard from me before you receive this postcard!  Gene Kelly is HUGE here; in every music store!  Take care, Rachel   P.S. Goethe Ins. attracts MANY HOT GUYS.  More later…

Rachel was an e-friend; we bonded over our mutual love for Gene Kelly.  She was attending the Goethe Institute to study German, and I told her about my Bergmeister family.  In her free time,  she took the time to  visit my great-grandparents’ home town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, about a half hour north of Munich.  She sent me photographs of the town, which I had just “discovered” as their place of origin, two years before I was able to travel there myself.  But her mission in Munich was to visit the Karlsplatz that is pictured in this postcard – it was the one place in Munich that I knew my great-grandfather Joseph Bergmeister had probably visited.  I knew this from his military photograph (featured in this post).  The photographer was F.X. Ostermayr with an address on the Karlsplatz.  I knew it was likely that Joseph spent his two years of military service in Munich itself, and he and his family possibly lived there immediately prior to immigrating to the U.S.  However, I had no proof – except that one day back in 1893 he strolled into a photographer’s studio right on Munich’s main street.  There, with his classmates, he had his official military portrait taken.  It is the only surviving photo of him that I have discovered.

As I searched through my boxes of “memories” for this new monthly postcard festival, I knew that this was a winner for the “Main Street” category.  Not only is it a vintage portrait of a main street – one that looks remarkably the same when I finally saw it, but it is also a street on which my ancestor walked.  Perhaps he also stood before the Karlstor and was amazed at how long it had been there and all of the history it had seen.  I wonder if, while he was in Munich, he sent a postcard to his family in Puch and Pfaffenhofen? (Lieber freund, the Infanterie Leib Regiment isn’t as backward as I thought… I doubt he would write about the MANY HOT MÄDCHEN he found there though!)

But this postcard was also special because it reminded me of what postcards are all about – friends connecting and keeping in touch while sharing their travel experiences.  I had never met Rachel before she took this trip to Germany, but we were friends all the same and she took photos of places that she knew meant something to my history.  I did get to meet her when she returned, and it was nice to thank her in person.  I can’t remember when we lost touch, but it would be nice to find her again and catch up.

As a side note, in trying to date the above photograph I found two old public domain photos  (one is actually a postcard) of the same square.  This view is in nearly the same direction as the above postcard:

Karlsplatz in a 1902 photograph.  Reprinted in Hans Dollinger's Die Münchner Straßennamen, München, Ludwig-Verlag, 2004

Karlsplatz in a 1902 photograph. Reprinted in Hans Dollinger's Die Münchner Straßennamen, München, Ludwig-Verlag, 2004

Perhaps my attempt to date the postcard photograph was incorrect – in 1902 only horse carts are parked on the square!  Here is a view in the opposite direction – what you would see as you walked through the Karlstor into the square:

A late 19th Century postcard showing the Karlsplatz facing west.  Estimated date is 1890-1905.

A late 19th Century postcard showing the Karlsplatz facing west. Estimated date is 1890-1905.

This would have been a postcard for sale at the time my great-grandfather was in Munich!  I did make a visit to Munich myself in 1998 and 2006.  While fashions and transportation have changed since that time, many of the buildings remain (or, as in the case of the Frauenkirche, were re-built exactly as before they were destroyed in World War II).  What does the Karlsplatz look like today?  Take a look at this 360° view!

Postcard logofestivalwishyou


[Written for the 2nd edition of A Festival of Postcards: Main Street]

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