Vintage photos of a well-to-do black family
  • A woman’s 1940s nursing photos
  • Locating lost family members from our past
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    Auction Finds

    Old family photos

    Some years ago when I was a reporter in my hometown of Macon, Ga., I was one of a team working on a series of stories on Blacks in Macon. During one of my interviews, I took a look at some old photos belonging to the man I was interviewing. While going through them, I spotted a photo that looked very familiar.

    It was a picture of my grandfather and uncle – my grandfather as a young man possibly in his 30s and my uncle who was a teen. Thblkwomanpixey were posing for photos at what looked to be a special father and son social event (4-H Club, maybe. My grandfather was a farmer and his sons worked the farm with him). They both looked so handsome in their suits, and so young. I had several copies of that picture made and distributed to members of my family.

    At an auction recently, I came across a nice Sepia photo of a young black woman with pearls, poised, reading a book. On the bottom front of the paper mat in what looked like the original frame was the name of the photography studio – Fowler, 138 N. 8th St. (perhaps NY?). 

    Someone bidded against me for the photo, but I wasn’t about to let this one get away. It’s the photo in my blog header above, and to the right in its frame.

    When I come across photos of black people, I bid on them. I have some B&W’s from my childhood, not many, but I have practically none of my grandparents as young people. Likely, they didn’t take many photos. We sometimes don’t consider ourselves and our lives as particularly interesting or worthy of saving. That saddens me.

    So, you can understand my astonishment each time I find old photos at the auctions I attend. I come across stacks of photos – their ends curled, the Kodak paper rigid – that young family members have apparently tossed after their elders died. What a lot of lost history.

    baby2At another auction, I came across one of the most precious photos of all. It was in a box of discarded “junk.” (I did find a stack of photos on another table and this one may have initially been part of it). This was a photo of a baby, taken at a hospital in New Jersey right after he/she was born. It’s the type of photo that hospitals gave out to parents for years (Do they still do that?).

    It is a cute photo. On the back it says: “Baby’s First Photo made available as an added service by Your Hospital. “

    Which takes me to another photo I picked up a month or so ago at the same auction. It’s a photo of the 1939 graduating class of Barratt Junior High School.  I was taken by the photo because the class is diverse: Many of the students are African American. More than likely, this Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood was undergoing a cultural shift.

    I believe this is what is now Barratt Middle School, the same school that Dr. Martin Luther King visited on Oct. 26, 1967, and gave a speech titled “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” By then, Barratt had become a predominantly black school.

    Few of the photos I come across are of African Americans and their families. Maybe we as Black folks tend to hang onto ours since so much of who we were has been left unrecorded. Do you save old photos?barratt2

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