Friday, August 11, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Hair Do's and Don'ts

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of the young man posed with hand to cheek gives me an excuse to share a photo that I really DO NOT LIKE. Here is my most beloved grandaunt Violetta Davis (Ryan) posed likewise in that thoughtful way with hand to cheek.

Violetta Davis

For some time the reason for my dislike eluded me. After all, the photo is clear. There is an elaborately carved table and chair. I love Violetta’s velvet dress with sheer sleeves adding another layer of elegance to an already elegant and formal setting. So what is there NOT to like?

I finally figured it out. It’s her hair. Sorry, Violetta, those bangs were not a good look for you. The Violetta of my memory did not do bangs.

Not as a toddler.
Violetta Davis ca 1906

Not as a school girl.

Violetta Davis

Not as a college student

Violetta Davis  1923

nor as a graduate with a Master of Science degree in education

Violetta Davis

The young schoolmarm hairdo served her well throughout the 1930s.

Violetta Davis Ryan

Violetta Davis Ryan 1946-47
In the 1940s she changed things up. I can picture her wagging her finger and joining in with the Andrews Sisters singing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.”

Violetta Davis Ryan 1951-52 https://jollettetc.blogspot.comVioletta Davis Ryan 1952-53

In the 1950s, her beautiful grey hair was often pulled back allowing her to show off her earrings when she chose to do so.

1960s - Oh NO! A Perm! Aaaack -  Step away from the curling rods, please. Whew!

Violetta Davis Ryan 1960s

In her later years, Violetta’s hair always seemed wild and BIG to me. However, looking back now, I see that her hair was soft and wavy and, yes, BIG. And it suited her.

Violetta Davis Ryan 1981
Violetta in her living room
December 1981

With finger to your cheek, give some thought to visiting my friends at Sepia Saturday. You’ll get a bang out of it!

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Mary Theresa in DC

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo featuring the handsome Taft Bridge in Washington D. C. brings to mind this photo of my grandaunt Catherine Walsh Barany, my paternal grandmother’s younger sister.
Catherine Walsh Barany 1936 Washington D.C.
Kat Barany 1936
It’s not the Taft, but it is SOME bridge in the Washington D. C. vicinity  oops Niagara Falls.

[EDITED: Thanks to Mike Brubaker, I now know these photos were not from the trip to D. C. but from a trip to Niagara Falls. No wonder I could not find the name of the bridge! Unfortunately, if Mary Theresa wrote home about seeing the Falls, the letter did not survive.]

My great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh rode the bus to northern Virginia to visit her two youngest daughters, Kat and Tate and their husbands. The sisters lived not terribly far apart, and they liked getting together to show their mother the sights. On this particular trip, Mary Theresa divided her time staying roughly a week with one before moving on to stay with the other.

In a letter dated March 10, 1936, Mary Theresa wrote all about her visit with Kat and Tate, but not once did she mention a walk across a bridge, going to a park that had a view of a bridge, or even seeing a river.
Mary Theresa Sheehan Walsh and Kat Walsh Barany 1936 Washington DC
Mary Theresa and Kat in Niagara Falls 1936 [ edited ]
However, Mary Theresa did report on all the things she did. She was especially impressed that they could go to so many different movie theaters and catch a different picture every night. One in particular was “The Prisoner of Shark Island.”
Never heard of it. It sounds like a horror movie but it was actually the story of Dr. Samuel Mudd who was imprisoned for treating President Lincoln’s assassin in 1865. The movie was directed by John Ford.

Other highlights included visiting the Rosemunds (who?), Willie Edwards (who?), and George and Mandy (who?). She had lunch out, visited a Catholic church and a 5 & 10 cent store. What a juxtaposition!

The Rosemunds showed Mary Theresa a fine time. Here is what she said about their driving tour:

“Old man Fleming” was my great-grandfather, John Fleming Walsh who had died in 1918. I wonder what she meant by calling him that.

Since she saw the national cemetery, surely she also saw the Arlington Memorial Bridge.
Arlington Memorial Bridge
from Wikimedia Commons

Please cross the bridge to Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Camping with the Terrible Five

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

The gentleman in this week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt reminds me of so many men and boys captured on the film in my grandaunt Helen Killeen’s little box camera. Aunt Helen rarely labeled her photos with names, opting instead for funny little captions like 

“Oh Boy”
Beach friends of Helen Killeen Parker about 1919

Beach friends of Helen Killeen Parker about 1919

“Royal 4” 
Beach friends of Helen Killeen Parker about 1919

and “Terrible Five”
Beach friends of Helen Killeen Parker about 1919

Recently that silly caption “Terrible Five” has taken on a whole new meaning. I was going through some photos, letters, and other memorabilia belonging to Aunt Helen and her sisters when I unfolded a typed poem glued to a heavier piece of paper, maybe a folder or large mailer. As I read it, I recognized scenes recorded in photos of a camping trip which was the focus of an earlier Sepia Saturday post.

Poem about a camping trip Northwest, VA July 4, 1920 Helen Killeen Parker

** A triangle of paper is missing.  Words in brackets represent a logical guess based on the syntax of the sentence. If no logical guess could be made with any certainty, I inserted dashes inside the brackets.

The Memorable Camping Trip

The third of July dawned bright and clear
We all left home with merry good cheer.
Going away on a camping trip
To have a good time, sure you can bet.
Lots of dancing, and things to eat
Nice place to swim, good place to sleep.
Nothing to worry about in the care of the “Terrible Five,”
Now we are lucky to be alive.

Landed at Northwest, Va., about eleven o’clock
Tired, sore and hungry, it sure was a shock.
The roads were something awful, bump, bump, bump all the way
Gee, it’s a wonder our hair didn’t turn gray.
We went in bathing to rest our poor bones
But the water [was] full of snakes, mud and stones.
About that [time] someone called,
“Dinner is [ready], come one and all.”
Everyone [ - - ] for they were starved it seemed
But what [did they] get to eat, but beans, beans, beans.

Camping trip to Northwest VA July 4, 1920

The [ - - ] under two big trees
Camping trip to Northwest VA July 4, 1920 https://jollettetc.blogspot.comAnd [ - - ] down and ate what they pleased.
After dinner we loafed around awhile, and went out in the canoe
For there really wasn’t anything else that we could do.

Camping trip to Northwest VA July 4, 1920

Camping trip to Northwest VA July 4, 1920
Helen and Victrola

Then someone started the Victrola,
So we started to dance, and as we danced,
Someone said the country people were in a trance.
And if we did not stop, they would have us put in jail
And we would have to get someone to go [sic] our bail.

So we decided at last, to go to bed
But soon discovered there was no place to lay our weary heads.
So we stretched out on the ground under a tent
Then the wild animals their weird sounds sent.
They screeched and howelled and cooed
And scared us so bad we couldn’t move.
Somehow the night passed over
And Sunday came and went.

Camping trip to Northwest VA July 4, 1920

And we welcomed Monday, as some great event.
We left Northwest about half past two
And got bump after bump, until we nearly turned blue.
Arrived home about seven or that way
Only to discover that red bugs had come home with us to stay.

So I tell you dear friends, if you want to die
Just go on a Camping trip, with the “Terrible Five.”

The moniker “Terrible Five” must have been part of a running joke among the friends who seemed to enjoy getting together often whether at the beach or at a riverside camp. Perhaps the poem was written – AND preserved for presentation – to be read at some other gathering of “The Gang.”
Beach friends of Helen Killeen Parker about 1919
"The Gang"
Ocean View - Norfolk, Virginia about 1919

Jump in – the water is fine at Sepia Saturday, and so are the photos and stories.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Sepia Saturday: That "Aww" Moment

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is the kind that makes you go “Awww” with that adorable puppy peeking out of a wicker basket. Outside the basket are a stuffed dog and hair brush. While there is no hairbrush in my photo, there is a stuffed dog and a sweet face that warrants an “Awww.”
Unknown baby boy with toys in collection from Lucille Rucker Davis and Orvin Davis
Baby boy with toy doll and stuffed dog
How would you date this photo?

Who this baby boy is or was is just another mystery in a long line of mysteries. Likely he was related to someone on my maternal grandparents’ side.

No story today. Aw shucks.

There will be plenty of “Aww” moments at Sepia Saturday.

© Wendy Mathias, 2017. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Ode to the Folding Chair

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of a well-dressed couple camping prompted me to take a second look at the lowly folding chair. In particular, I remembered this one:

Unknown woman with folding chair probably an Eppard cousin

The woman is unknown, possibly one of my maternal grandmother’s cousins. It doesn’t matter. The point is the CHAIR. Much like the one in the prompt photo, it was wood with a canvas seat and back. Today such chairs are known as “Director’s Chairs.” Of course! In every movie about the making of a movie, the director is sitting in a chair with canvas seat and back.

I suppose lots of people fussed and complained about those wooden chairs getting loose and wobbly over time. Then the canvas wore out or ripped from dry rot. Enter Fredric Arnold. In 1947 he saved the day with his invention of an aluminum folding chair with fabric strapping for the seat and back. For years that chair has been the mainstay in most households across America.

Sunday picnics, family reunions, graduation parties, birthdays – if it is outside, there is a folding chair involved.
Lucille Davis and Sullivan sisters
Leota Sullivan Racy, Grandma Lucille Rucker Davis,
Pearl Sullivan Strole, Floral Sullivan Merica, and Elta Sullivan Farrar

In the mid-1960s, the Sullivan cousins came to town and gathered for a cook-out at the home of their sister Elta Farrar. Such an occasion called for LOTS of folding chairs.

About that same time, our family hosted SOMETHING in the backyard but I do not know what. We must have expected a crowd because my dad brought over the more substantial porch furniture from my grandmother’s house next door.

What a nice collection of classic aluminum chairs
with green and white webbing!
Our backyard on Gillis Rd, Portsmouth, VA
There's my grandmother and my sister.
Momma has her back to us. 

Wendy and Jordan Sep 1981 Lamaze reunion
Me in my Dorothy Hamill haircut
and Jordan just growing hers

September 1981 found members of my Lamaze class enjoying each other’s babies at a little reunion. We put those folding chairs through their paces reuniting for several years: our babies’ first birthday, second birthday, until well, those chairs were folded up for good as Lamaze reunions began to feel rather silly and everyone went their separate ways.

Sep 1981 Lamaze reunion
Folding chairs with traditional webbing and with the longer-lasting
wood slats. Low chairs were perfect for the beach.
Bottom right is a peek at the then-NEW lounge chair with vinyl straps.
We thought they were great but boy were they heavy and did they rust!

The folding chair may not be as charming as the wicker chair

Julia Walsh, Helen Killeen, Mae Holland and John Holland
Grandaunt Helen Killeen holding her nephew John Holland
Left and right: my grandmother Julia Walsh and
Mae Killeen Holland

or as comfortable as the Adirondack,

Steve and Catherine Walsh Barany
Steve and Cat Barany
at their home in Washington DC

but folding chairs have demonstrated their staying power when it comes to outdoor living.
Wendy and Barry at Smith Mountain Lake
Wendy and Barry on the dock
Smith Mountain Lake

Thank-you, Fredric Arnold!

Grab a chair and enjoy more fun reads at Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Where Were You?

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt depicting a young boy watering his garden left me discouraged. That is because three years ago I shared my only story of a watering can and children tending their garden. But I did not worry long. After all, I have photos of rock walls.

Friends of Violetta Davis Ryan 29 June 1919

Unfortunately, I have no story to go with them. They are just simple photos of my grandaunt Violetta Davis (later Ryan), a cousin I recognize, and men that I don’t.

Friends of Violetta Davis Ryan 29 June 1919

While Violetta did not extend me the courtesy of labeling names or location, she did include the date on every single one of these photos: June 29, 1919. Amazing - just a couple weeks shy of 98 years ago that Violetta and her friends went wherever they went to do whatever they did.

It was a Sunday. What was going on in the world?

The Treaty of Versailles was signed the day before, bringing “the Great War” to an end. Big news day! Throughout the United States, newspaper headlines read much like the one in the New York Times.

In other cities, the peace treaty took second billing to news that the liquor ban would not be lifted.

In Leavenworth, Kansas, reports about the signing, the German outrage, and the liquor issue took equal billing along with stories about a drunk driver and about a prisoner who made a daring escape from the Leavenworth jail disguised as a soldier.

The forging of world peace was not the only headline-grabber that day. Still above the fold was the announcement of states voting to ratify the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. It would be another year before the required 2/3 majority of states ratifying was achieved.

Those were exciting times. And on that day, my grandaunt was just standing by a rock wall. 

Violetta Davis Ryan and maybe Leota Sullivan 29 June 1919
Violetta (left) and possibly her cousin Leota Sullivan
29 June 1919 

Knowing my grandaunt Violetta the way that I did, I am positive no one was more excited about being able to vote than she was even though she was only 16 when the amendment was ratified. Violetta was a liberated woman long before women burned their bras. She preached the importance of girls getting an education and being able to make their way in the world without having to rely on a man for money.
Violetta Davis Ryan 1922 Harrisonburg Teachers College now James Madison University
Violetta as a student 1922
Harrisonburg Teachers College

Don’t just stand there. There is more to read above the fold at Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.