My mother and eldest sister have come across my writing on this blog (thanks to a friend who posted links on Facebook) and it's prompted a bit of collective re-visiting of family history. Since she read my blog post "I have lived in many houses", Mum has started listing all the houses she and Dad lived in over the years, and has been looking out photos of those houses. (There are surprisingly few, alas.) Mum also has lots of stories of her own about those houses, and I plan to sit down with her soon and record them, and perhaps share them here. This stuff is important—the way we live our lives.
Connected to all of this is the fact that now I am well settled in my lovely old house, I want to hang family photos in the timber-walled hall. My parents have a lot of old family photos, going back quite a few generations (especially on Dad's side). I love the way old photos were hand-tinted, and mounted beautifully on card borders, and I'm hoping in addition to getting copies made, I can have some of the originals too. There are four of us kids, so we'll have to make sure they're shared around, and anyway, Dad is not ready to just hand them all over yet, and nor should he.
However, I did manage to borrow a few photos to scan, and I had a few myself here at home, and I'm going to post them here bit by bit over time. Thematically, I think.
Starting tonight with some photos of women from my family in fabulous frocks of the 1920s. Because—20s, frocks—what's not to love?
The young women in these first photos are distant relatives—the daughters of my paternal grandmother's aunt. I never knew any of them, but I love these photos and am glad to have copies of them. They are glimpses into lives past, lives that were so different, yet at heart, so like our own.
This is Ettie Bailey: she's nearly 17 in this photo, and it looks like she was a bridesmaid:
Here's Ettie again—she looks even younger here, probably because her hair isn't "done":
And here's her sister Lena. I love her dress and shoes. The dress looks homemade, although I don't know, obviously. Anyway, I think she looks fantastic (and actually looks rather a lot like a writer friend of mine!)
And here are the older women of the Bailey family:
And just because I love it, here is Ettie and her dad, Charles, horsing around, with Ettie's mum and Charles's wife Minnie looking on (that's also Minnie in the middle of the photo above, with her mother-in-law to the right and cousin Nance to the left):
The Baileys were dairy farmers and orchardists–I imagine they are milking buckets they are mock-threatening each other with.
Coming closer to home, this is my maternal grandmother Edith Dykes, nee Bush.
And at her wedding to Stanley Manning Dykes:
I never knew my grandfather—Pa-pa, as he was called in the family. He died when I was six weeks old, but I have always felt as if I knew him, from family photos and the letters he wrote to Grace from his time as a soldier in World War 1. Grandma Pet (so named because she called my eldest sister "Grandma's Pet") died when I was only five, so my memories of her are sketchy, but true. My mother looks a lot like her.
Somewhere I know I've seen a photo of my paternal grandmother, Violet Ridge (nee Nicholas) in a classic 20s dress and cloche hat, but I don't have a copy, so instead, here is her wedding photo from March 1924—87 years ago last week. Violet married my grandfather George Ridge, and the wedding party is made up of (l-r) Granddad's brother Ned, Gladys Ridge (I think she was Ned's wife), Florrie Nicholas (related to Grandma, not sure how) and Grandma's young brother Reg—he with the too-short pants and the Split Enz hair.
If you can, check out the shoes!
OK, that's a bit small, so here are the shoes:
Gladys Ridge's shoes (with Granddad's to the right):
and my favourites, Florrie's gorgeous lattice-fronted Louis-heeled pumps:
And although he's not a girl or woman, we have to have a closer look at poor Reg's ankles:
Reg was about 17 at Grandma and Granddad's wedding. He married young himself to Nance, who is the woman in the cloche hat on the left in the photo of the three older women in the Bailey family photo), and died tragically at ab out 21. It's nice to think of him as this awkward young bloke with the rolled-up trousers and fancy socks (not to forget the Split Enz hair) at his sister's wedding. I wish I'd known him.
I did know both these grandparents—Granddad (who called me Tiny Town) died when I was 15, Grandma when I was 18, so I've lived nearly twice as long without them as with them, but they were such a huge part of our family, my memories of them are vivid and strong and very much part of who I am. Granddad was tall (well, tall to me) and warm and dependable, never stern, always loving. I think it's fair enough to say we all adored him. Grandma was little, and a bit stern, but also funny and warm and loved to have her family around her. I still kind of miss them. I hope they'd be proud of me, whatever that means. I know they would love me, wherever I ended up.
Anyway, let me finish with this photo, again of women I never knew, but which may be one of my all-time favourite family photos. Also taken some time in the 1920s (I think), I believe the woman in the middle is my great-grandmother Kate (perhaps two greats?). I think back over the decades and generations, and all the good Methodist stock I come from, and the assumptions we have about people in the past and the way they thought about the world and the way they led their lives— and I think of this photo, and these respectable women with their skirts hoicked up to their generous, dimpled thighs and I think—we're not so different, you and I.
And I think I would have liked you, Great-(great?)-Grandmother Kate.