Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ghosts of the Past

I had in mind that I would post some photos from previous Halloweens here tonight.  I have some pictures of my dogs in costumes and some random trick or treating photos from when my nieces and nephews were very small and I went out with them, but I came across something much more interesting I thought I'd share.

Whenever I go to antique stores I always seem to get lost in ephemera.  I spend ages flipping through sheet music, theatre programs, magazines and photographs.  I am drawn like a moth to flame.  I'm not sure when this fascination started.  I know that as a child my Dad loved to go to a huge flea market each weekend in search of dolls to add to our collection, so that is a likely place as any to pin as the beginning.

As a child my mother was given a doll for her birthday each year on December 20th, then her mom would put it back in the box and wrap it up on Christmas Eve and make her gift it to her cousins who lived down the block.  I don't think she intended it to be so cruel, they simply couldn't afford many gifts and I assume my grandmother figured they would all play together anyhow, so they would all benefit.  My mom hated having beautiful dolls for only a few days and then seeing her cousins destroy them.  She could hardly breathe on them for those few days without angering my  grandmother since they had to look perfect and new when her cousins got them.

Because of this, my Dad bought her hundreds of dolls over the years.  He tried to replace the precious ones and give her back the most cherished dolls of her youth.  Ginny, Sonja Henie, Shirley Temple, and the Toni Home Permanent dolls all made themselves back to my mom when my dad would find them at flea markets and thrift shops.  He loved finding unique dolls of the world and would sometimes use them in his classroom since he taught geography and would show them as examples of the clothing and crafts of artists all over the world.  It really isn't any wonder I was so interested in costume design.

 At some point on every excursion I would wander off and get lost in stacks of paper goods.  Dad would always pick me up a few photographs or postcards.  They were cheap and plentiful and I loved the stories lost in the pictures and the brief captions on the back.

When Andy and I were first married we would visit the antique mall that is in a neighboring town.  We would often go with his mother and we would get lost for hours in all of the furniture and beautiful old things.  I wish we would go every so often still.  I love going and just looking through the treasures in the cases and finding curious bits of the lives of people that have turned up for sale.

On one occasion I bought a bunch of old photographs.  If I saw any that spoke to me I picked it up.  The most expensive one was four dollars - it was a photo of a baby standing on a chair that said "Hagerstown, Maryland" and since that was my new hometown I decided I had to have it.  I didn't know any of the people in the photographs.  I'm quite sure any of the folks who appeared in the pictures are long faded memories, but I wanted to take them home.  Here are a few of the photographs I rescued that day along with the captions written on the back.  They all see to be in the same handwriting.  I will save the curious one for last.


"July 4 1909"

"May 10, '08"

"May 10, '08"

"Let's have our picture taken - 1st June 1905"
"H - 1909"

"Aug 1907"
All of these are beautiful examples of period clothes.  When I found them I thought about how useful they would be as research for shows set at the turn of the century.  They were a wonderful mix of candid and carefully planned pictures.  I love the one of the gentlemen trying to secure the huge and wonderful hat of the lady he is with.  It seems like these people may have been a group of friends and they appear in multiple photos together.  I wish I knew where they were taken or who they might be - they seem like the type of folks I'd want to be around.

Last but not least there is this image.

I adore it.  I love the woman who has been hoisted up and is laughing at her new viewpoint.  I also love the girl staring at the camera with the odd look on her face.  I can't decide if she is regretting lifting her friend or just eyeing up the photographer but I love her expression.  The back says "Aug 1907" but it also has something else captured there.

I believe this ghostly woman may also appear in the photo above with the dog.  I don't own a copy of the photo that has etched itself to the back of this one, but I'm happy to have this remembrance of this beautiful lady.  I love her slight smile, the tilt of her head and her piercing eyes.  None of the other photos have anything like this, and I just noticed her as I was looking through them again tonight.  It almost seems as if this photograph just couldn't bear being lost in a box and it had to come home with me.  I'm sorry it escaped my notice until now.  She looks happy to be found, don't you agree?

I hope you have many discoveries this week.  I hope you make an impression.  Over a hundred years later, this beautiful woman haunts me with questions - I hope you are the spark that makes someone in the distant future wonder who you are and that your secrets whisper just loud enough to be heard.

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