Yesterday afternoon, I skimmed through ten decades of family photographs. These snapshots incorporating footprint’s of both recent familial existences, along with images of my earlier paternal and maternal line forebears.
Included within the monochrome memories a photograph from the 1920’s taken in Leeds Town Hall, showing my great grandad as toastmaster at an event where Winston Churchill (then a young Member of Parliament) was lead speaker.
Another image I unearthed was from the mid-1960’s. This vision showing the occasion when my mum’s siblings, her father and me (as a toddler) stood alongside TV cop show Z-Cars actor Stratford Johns. In the days before selfies, getting a photo with a celeb was rare indeed.
The picture taken with Stratford Johns manifested from my mum’s youngest brother winning a car in a quiz of some sort. As he was only 16 years old, my uncle Gerald sold the car he was presented by Johns.
I possess a number of knowledge voids about the event; these include why my uncle entered a competition to win a car he wasn’t old enough to drive. I’d also like to know what the hell my mum was feeding me at the time. I resemble a two year old Mr Creosote in this snap.
Kudos to mater for actually being able to lift me from terra firma. Although, as she was pregnant with my brother Ian at the time, in this contemporary era of more stringent health and safety doctrines, her lifting of yours truly maybe viewed by some as wantonly reckless.
I’m fascinated by old family photographs. Like holding a vinyl music album, the touch and feel of these non-digital trinkets evoke a warmth of feeling I find bereft in images delivered by electronic conduits.
Even the redolence of age emitted by these snapshots, although not one of roses, somehow adds to the viewing experience. A stale whiff that’s evolved over many decades while lain in drawers, wardrobes and lofts of owners who pass them generationally, keeping familial memories alive, even after they’ve departed this vale of tears.
Whilst wading through hundreds of images, on occasion I sought maternal clarification of the pictures main protagonists. During one such episode, I queried the identity of the four women (aged in their 30’s/40’s) staring back from a 1970’s photo.
Mater enlightened me to the names of the three women sitting at a table, but was flummoxed by the identity of the fourth lady stood behind them. Her uncertainty leading to the following verbal interaction….. And this, unlike my oft embellished prose, is without a word of a lie:-
“I don’t know who that is stood up, Gary!” face screwed as she scrutinised the snapshot.
“That’s the only one I did know, mum!!….. It‘s you!” I exclaimed incredulously.
“That’s never me!” mater argued, prior to wandering into the lounge for her reading glasses.
On her return, with specs in situ, she took the faded colour photograph from my grasp. Scanned it for a few seconds, before again proffering “That’s not me, Gary!….. Whatever makes you think that’s me, love?!”
“Because I’ve the ocular wherewithal to recognise my mother of more than half a century!” I blurted sarcastically. Adding “Seriously mum, can you not tell that’s you stood behind Anita Preece?”
My mother pulled the image even closer to her puzzled looking visage. Scowling like a jeweller would when examining the quality of a diamond, she eventually responded “Oh yeah, that is me!….. I can’t remember ever having my hair in that style!…. That’s what threw me, love!”
While she was in the dining room, I showed her the photograph above where Stratford Johns stood aside family members.
“Ah yes, I remember that well…. Look, there’s our Joan, Gerald and my dad!” mum beamed, clearly warmed at seeing her late siblings and father in an image she’d not set eyes on in decades.
Thankfully, Mags didn’t follow up that statement with “I’ve no bloody idea who that is holding you, though, Gary!”
However, she did feel moved to point out “Bleeding hell, you were a right fat arse back then, Gaz!”