Sunday, August 29, 2010

Every picture tells a story

When I go to a thrift store I look at photo frames because sometimes I find personal or family pictures. Yesterday I found the above sepia-toned portrait photo in a frame.

The picture appears to be from the 1930s, maybe earlier. The boy with the collar wing flying astray--and why didn't the photographer adjust it for him, or at least tell him about it?--is identified on the back, in a pencil notation, as Bain Hoopes. I googled the name and found a Bain Hoopes who was on the Philadelphia Social Register in 1914 (too early), and a Francis Bain Hoopes, who loaned an N.C. Wyeth original to Johns Hopkins University. With such an unusual name it could be this boy is related to those Hoopes.

There are reasons that personal snapshots or portrait photos would end up floating around in antique shops or thrift stores. A box of photos is bought at an estate sale; a picture is left in a frame when there's no one to claim it. I think it's kind of sad, really. Every one of these pictures, which fell into my hands in the same way as young Bain Hoopes, had a meaning to somebody at one time.

The picture of the bespectacled girl and her Marilyn Monroe-lookalike friend was found as a bookmark in a copy of The Savage God by A. Alvarez. On the back it says, "Marlene and me, gym class, 1953." No indication of which one is Marlene.

Another bookmarking photo is of the gent, standing before the fire, in a bowler hat and cane, obviously having a good time. I notice he has family photos on the mantle.

The baby in the New York Yankees baseball suit isn't dated, but I'm guessing he's one of the Baby Boomers, like me. Probably late '40s...?

Finally, one of my favorites, the couple by the sedan. The clothes say 1940s. Love her fur coat, his double-breasted suit coat and shirt sans tie. If I let my imagination go I can see them as a bank robber and his gun moll, but they're probably just somebody's Aunt Ruth and Uncle Joe, both long since deceased. It was taken on a Thanksgiving Day, when they were ready to drive home. Or, it's the day before Joe reports for induction into the Army, and gets shipped off to the war. Auntie Ruth is smiling bravely, Joe is grinning, wondering how he'll look in a uniform. Whoever they are, I have them by my desk and I look at them quite often.

As Rod Stewart put it, every picture tells a story. Sometimes we just have to make up the stories.

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