Monday, January 30, 2012

Mystery Locale

Time to throw out a bit of a mystery. Where was this photograph taken? It could be Cuba, a fairly popular vacation spot for Americans before Castro and our ongoing tiff with Havana. Maybe Panama. This image goes back to a time when people took ships to get from point A to point B, rather than as a floating version of Vegas, and the canal was a pretty common trip. Mexico, maybe Manila. Hey, I'm not lazy. I spent a couple of hours looking through Google images and couldn't find a match.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How To Take a Photograph...

Lesson number one. It's always best to focus on the main subject rather than the background. Points for being consistent. Dated "Oct 1956"

Friday, January 27, 2012

There's a Riot Going On!

Well, probably not a riot, just a plain old ordinary fire. But I'm a Sly and the Family Stone fan, and I couldn't resist.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The German American Collection, Adults Only

To recap...A dealer had purchased a number of photos from an estate, sold some of them separately, and then bundled up what was left into several lots, and then put them up on line, on EBay. I bid on all of the lots, but was only able to get one. Because it's so broken up, and because it covers such a great span of time, I'm putting the photos up in a catch-as-can manner, when I get around to it. I call it the German-American Collection, because there was a real photo postcard of a wedding with a German photo studio's name on the back (already posted), and a partial album from Germany (still to come). As usual, click on German-American in the labels section to bring up the lot. The picture of the woman on the stone wall is dated "Sept. 1936."

The German American Collection, The Partial Album Page

Yet another bit from the German-American collection. One small bit of an album page, two images, on opposite sides of the page. Click on German-American in the labels section to bring up the whole lot.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Woman, Her Bike, and the Mysterious Stranger

Who is the man of mystery, and why is he handing the woman his card?

Friday, January 20, 2012

When There Are No Pigs To Ride...

Tricycles will do.

Riding Pigs

Intersting merry-go-round. I can think of a lot of animals that might be used as substitutes for the traditional horse, but pigs! Anyway, there aren't any old cars in the background, no recognizable buildings, and the clothes, while somewhat old fashioned, aren't all that distinctive, so how can this photo be dated? There is an Agfa-Lupex logo on the back which gives us a clue. Agfa started out as Aktiengesellschaft fur Anilinfabrikation in a Berlin suburb in 1867, became part of the IG Farben conglomerate in 1925, and still survives, though no longer a part of the infamous Farben chemical empire. Agfa-Lupex photographic paper was introduced in 1935, in Germany, and the particular logo design on the back of the print was used until about 1940. It's a start, but photographic paper, if properly stored, can be printed for decades. For all we know, some amateur photographer bought a box of Lupex, threw it in the back of an ice box, and kept the paper refrigerated for twenty years. I've just finished processing a roll of Ilford black & white film that went out of date in 1996, and it turned out just fine. Without any writing on the back, without a date or a location, this is what I like to imagine. It's the mid thirties. Hitler has come to power. War is on the horizon, and the adults in this photograph know it. Still, the carnival is in town and it makes the children happy to ride the pigs. What kid wouldn't be happy to ride a pig?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I See You

Don't sneak up on us with that damn camera!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


My mother was in service. She was one of ten children. When she was eleven, her parents died. The five eldest siblings each took in one of the five youngest. The brother who took my mother was a butler at an English country estate. On her twelfth birthday she became an under house maid. For those who are watching Downton Abbey, she was Daisy. In her late teens, she became Gwen, a very junior house maid on a very large staff. When the war began, she left service to work in an aircraft factory. She was a machinist, working on the Minerva engine used in Spitfires and Hurricanes. She married my father, moved to the United States, worked as a super market checker, seamstress, and eventually returned to service as a housekeeper. Of course, she was also maid, baby sitter, cook, and house cleaner, but she preferred the title held by Mrs. Hughes. She had to return to service because, in 1960, her marriage ended, she needed a job, and that was what she could get. There would be other jobs after that. Some better, some worse. This photograph is dated, "APR 4, 32" and was probably taken in the United States.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ira R. Crouse Lumber Company

Before Home Depot, before Lowe's, hardware stores and lumber yards were locally owned. Support small, locally owned businesses.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ramon Novarro

I'm not one to collect autographed pictures of actors, but I was scrolling through EBay, 99cents, free shipping, click and it was mine.

So, who was Ramon Novarro? He was born Jose Ramon Gil Samaniego, in 1899, the son of a successful Mexican dentist. In 1916, fleeing the Mexican revolution, Ramon and his family ended up in Los Angeles. A year latter, in 1917, Ramon was earning money as a dancer, singing waiter, piano teacher, and movie extra. For five years he struggled in his career, the occasional small part, but mostly background. And then he was cast as the lead in The Prisoner of Zenda. Three years latter, in 1925, now renamed Ramon Novarro, he had the biggest success of his career. The lead in Ben Hur: A Tale of Christ. His film career continued into the sound era, getting the romantic lead opposite Greta Garbo in Mata Hari, in 1931. That was it, the peak. After that, it was a slow slide into smaller and smaller parts. Eventually his work was mostly in episodic television.

In 1968, Ramon Novarro, a gay man who often picked up street hustlers. was murdered in his North Hollywood home by two of those hustlers, who thought that, because he had once been a movie star, he must be rich.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Another View of the Pike

A latter view of The Pike at Long Beach, California. But, not that much latter. Take a look at the large white building on the right side of the card and see a sign for the Theatorium movie theater. Built in 1908 and demolished in 1917. The Rialto Theater in the foreground started out as a restaurant and was converted into a silent movie theater in 1917, it would survive into the sound era and close in 1948. I have a feeling that when this photo was taken, it might still have been the restaurant, but the colorist updated things with the new sign. Too, take a look at the crowd in the foreground. Most of the people haven't been tinted, and the buildings in the far background have been outlined. The photographer probably exposed for the shadow area of the crowd, which caused the far better illuminated background to wash out. The detail would still be there but would print very light. Published by "M. Kashower Co., Los Angeles, Cal." in business from 19194 to 1934.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Pike at Long Beach

Okay, a very quick and not very detailed overview of the Pike amusement zone in Long Beach, California. It started with The Plunge an ocean side bath house built in 1902 that coincided with the extension of a red car interurban line to Long Beach. The pike was the wooden walk way that descended to The Plunge and Long Beach fishing pier from Pine Ave. As time went by, visitation to The Plunge sky rocketed, and other competing attractions were built. A ballroom, an amusement park on the pier, which featured The Cyclone, a dual track roller coaster built on pilings over the ocean in 1936, restaurants and food stands. Beach front amusement zones and piers would eventually loose their popularity. Once common, only a few remain. The Pike was demolished in 1979. Printed on the back, "Published by Newman Post Card Co., Los Angeles, San Francisco." The Newman Post Card Company incorporated in 1902 and survived into the 1960s.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Photo Booth Cowboy

If only it hadn't been damaged!

Friday, January 6, 2012


My last post was from Denmark (I think), so I thought I would continue with a Nordic theme. Stamped on the back "OLE WILLUMSEN-Foto-BERLEVAG" Berlevag, spelled with a little dot above the A that my computer can't duplicate, is about as far north as you can get in Europe. In Finmark County, in Norway, Berlevag is a small village on the Berants Sea. It was separated from the village of Tana on July 1, 1913, which puts this photo in the twentieth century. But, how did this photo, from such a small and isolated place, get to California?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


There is some faded writing on the back of this cabinet card, but there were only two words I could reliably translate. "Armi," obviously army and "uniforma," uniform. It's when I got out the magnifying glass and strained to read the print on the lady's sashes that I was able to infer some answers. "For Synders Frelse" fed into the Google translator, Danish came up as the language and the actual translation, "For sinners salvation." The best explanation is that these three ladies are members of The Salvation Army and that, if I could read what's actually written on the back, it would come up as either "3 Salvation Army members in uniform or "3 Salvation Army women in uniform." And the photographers name, "F. Lind Kabelvaag."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Sneaking a photo? Be careful, someone might stick out their tongue at you. Stamped on the back, "OCT 14, 1940 NEVER-FADE PHOTO PRINTS"