What’s in a Picture?

Joyce left behind more pictures than I can possibly categorize.  Among her stash was an envelope marked “Relatives” that included photos of many people that, sadly, I absolutely don’t recognize.  Recently, when Konnie and I spent several hours with Carl Reynolds, Mom’s 80-year old brother who lives in Las Vegas, he was able to put names and dates to several of the photographs.  Similarly, last year we shared an old photo album from Marvin and Lucille Miller with Dad’s sister Merlyn and her daughter, Susan.  The photo album was returned with dozens of sticky notes, providing identities many people Lucille wanted to remember.  With Carl and Merlyn’s help, the photos came alive for me as I now know who the people are, when they lived and why they are significant in our family history.

I’d like to share a few examples of some seemingly simple photos picturing Lyle and Joyce’s kids.  Bear with me as I dig into the details of the photos based on my personal knowledge of the setting.

Marianne and Dana - 1st Day of School (1961)

Marianne and Dana – 1st Day of School (1961)

Okay, so here Marianne and I pose in our new clothes for the first day of school in 1961.  What else can my firsthand knowledge add?  Quite a lot!

  • On the left side of the picture is an old bird bath overgrown with one of Joyce’s favorite flowers, large blue morning glories
  • At the bottom right side of the picture you’ll see a patch of light-colored grass and a wooden staircase on its side.  The staircase used to lead to the upstairs of the pre-1960 home.  It was removed and saved for use in the remodel.  The light-colored grass was caused by the staircase being laid flat on the grass.
  • In the background is the small, 8-foot wide trailer the family used while the house was being rebuilt.  Marianne, Dana and Rinda slept in the old, canvas deer hunting tent (not shown) in the backyard.
  • Does anyone remember the large apricot tree immediately behind Marianne and Rinda?  It was a great climbing tree that occasionally produced a lot of fruit (when there wasn’t a late spring frost).

Let’s try another photo – this one probably taken at Christmas in 1962.

Gordon, Rinda and Marianne at Christmas (approximately 1962).

Gordon, Rinda and Marianne at Christmas (approximately 1962).

Here we see Gordon (at the photo’s left) kneeling by his farm set while Rinda and Marianne play on the right side of the photo.  Can any of the kids remember that old linoleum floor?  What about the foil icicles on the tree?  I remember helping decorate the tree, carefully taking the icicles off of a piece of cardboard, one at a time, and placing them on the tree.  Yes, we saved the icicles each year!  What color were those drapes?  Didn’t they have some turquoise in the pattern?

Here’s a photo, probably taken a few days later, of Gordon playing with his farm set.  He’s seated at that old table with the chrome legs Joyce made us scrub with a toothbrush.  There’s Dad’s 1940 Ford outside the window with the trunk ajar.  I wonder if it was strategically parked there to hide the gifts Santa would bring?

Gordon playing with his farm set (1962) with Matt in the foreground.

Gordon playing with his farm set (1962) with Matt in the foreground.

Let’s look at one more priceless photo.  Here are Rinda and Gordon opening presents on Christmas morning (probably 1963-1965).  Aren’t they cute together?

Rinda and Gordon at Christmas - probably 1963 or later.

Rinda and Gordon at Christmas – probably 1963 or later.

How about a few fun details from the picture that add texture to what life was like for a child in Lyle and Joyce’s home?

  • How about that unreliable, large black and white TV in the background?
  • Dana made that wooden lamp on the TV in his 8th grade shop class
  • Aqua Net hairspray…remember that?
  • How about the traditional “book” of Lifesavers on the floor by Gordon’s right knee?
  • Who got a red scooter complete with a windshield for Christmas that year?

So, what is the point of my rambling walk down memory lane?  Just that so much of a family’s history can only be captured and recorded for posterity by those who lived it.  If photos like these are left in an envelope until all the Miller children pass away or lose their senses, so much will be lost.  Yes, I’m awfully sentimental but I believe that my children and grandchildren will enjoy getting to know Lyle and Joyce and the life events that, looking back, have helped shape me.  Perhaps it will help them treasure the time they have with their own families.