You Oughta Be in Pictures

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I now realize that I did a sort of lousy job taking pictures of these photos when I came across them while unpacking things at my mother’s a few month’s back and I apologize for that. These photos are large, at least 8″x10″, and both are matted the same and set in blond wooden frames. (I cropped them because my photos of them were uneven and a bit cockeyed – they are in reality more of a matched set.) These pictures are of me and my sister as tiny tots – apologies to my brother as he wasn’t born for another six or so years. I am the younger of the two, in the playpen, and my sister Loren is sitting on some steps, looking a bit like one of the Little Rascals in her slightly grubby looking garb.

Without knowing it for a fact, I assume that these were taken by my father. Pictorama readers know that dad, Elliott Butler, was a cameraman for ABC news for his entire career. Ironically this meant that there weren’t that many photos he took of us as kids because he was never content with the simple snapshot. Photo taking with dad involved a panoply of light meters and carefully considered compositions, and my memories of it are of the somewhat tedious variety of standing around as a subject – especially frustrating as a child, but the family tradition continued into adolescence.

The end result was that he didn’t bother with all the truck and nonsense that often and, like the shoemaker’s kids who go shoeless, we do not have all that many photos of us as small children. Despite all of that, somehow he captured us here pretty much in our native state of kid-ness.

This pair of photographs hung in my parent’s bedroom as long as I can remember. (Another set were in my grandmother’s living room and I was reminded of that recently. It popped a small bubble of memory in my mind, but I can’t say I really remember it.) These hung over a bureau – above a television at one time as I remember, but on either side of an antique mirror in more recent memory. (Many years ago I was flying home from Russia when my photo, which had already hung in the spot for decades, fell off the wall. My mother, who barely suppresses a superstitious streak, told me she was a nervous wreck until she heard I was safely on the ground. Luckily me and the pilot of my plane were ignorant of this incident.)

While retrieving these from a leaky garage before they could be ruined, I piled up a few others and perhaps we’ll get future posts on those. Most memorable are the photos of my mother and her brother John, also large, framed professional photos taken when they were in high school. These have the skillful hand coloring of the period. Ironically those I remember distinctly from my grandmother’s living room, hanging on silver-gray wallpaper with a design of green vines. I used to stare at them in fascination and try to mentally equate them with the adults I knew at the time.

I think Kim and I agree that I do not make a case for an extremely attractive child here. As he put it kindly this morning, I grew into my looks. On the other hand, Loren looks very charming here with her wild curls. Knowing my sister and her restless energy, it must have been quite a coup to get her to sit still as long as it would have taken to achieve this photo.

Anyway, I rescued these, cleaned them up a bit and set them up in the room I stay in at my mother’s house. As it would happen, they sit on an old bureau of my father’s, on either side of a television and I will be glad to see them each time I visit.

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ID – #O92

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Over our vacation this week a visit to the Met revealed something I had never seen before – a collection of early photo ID pins. Reminiscent of mug shots these identification tags seemed largely to have been from the industrial world of the 1930’s and 40’s, maybe into the 50’s. (I learned that earlier there had been just metal pins with numbers.)

From companies we still know today, such as Proctor and Gamble and Frigidare, to the rather snappy but little known Textile Machine Works, each of these is interesting individually, but they create a wonderful overall effect when you see a couple of dozen displayed as the Met has currently put together.

Unlike the rather uninteresting identification folks like me carry daily today, these photos in their tin frames are impressive in their weightiness. Sadly, I am not sure anyone will ever find my Jazz at Lincoln Center identification worth recovering and saving, nor will they have the chance as today’s ID cards are of course chock full of electronic information and are generally required to be returned upon leaving employment.

Frigidaire

From the exhibit at the Met, one of many badges in a display case.

 

Although not especially attractive aesthetically, my Met ID was a wonderful thing which not only open employee passageways and activated elevators, but it also gained me free admission to all of the museums in New York and many elsewhere. The photo was decidedly mug shot-esque, but the person taking the photos was usually kind about it and would take a few and let you pick. Over the 30 years I was there I learned a few things about getting the best photo, but lousy at best really. (They were also nice enough to produce photos needed for passports and travel visas.) I do miss that ID and the empowerment it accorded.

My current ID gains me access to our offices and the bathroom in the hall, as well as opening the doors to our backstage area in the hall. In addition it occasionally gains me access to backstage at other venues when the orchestra is playing. The photo, such as it is, is sort of illegible really.

Jazz ID.JPG

These tin badges, worthy of any child playing sheriff I would think, have heft. It is easy to see why they all still exist as one can easily imagine people keeping them after years of service to a company. You can just imagine a retirement after many years, the badge put away and then saved again and again by subsequent generations.

After our morning at the Met Kim and I wandered downtown, stopping first at Blick for art supplies, then lunch and my favorite clothing store, DL Cerney – maker of vintage inspired cloths for both men and women utilizing vintage or vintage inspired fabrics, buttons and designs. (Our day was a well worn path known to Pictorama readers!)

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DL Cerney on 9th Street in the East Village

 

Our afternoon ended with a stop in at Obscura Antiques and Oddities in the East Village. which I wrote about before in my birthday post. There we had the surprise please to meet up with Mike Zohn, one of the owners. In all my visits, I do not think I have every been there when Mike was there, although I think it was he I met at an opening of Kim’s a few years back. I believe that was when I first heard about the store which I like to wander into a few times a year. I asked him to keep me in mind when he runs across early Felix items.

Oddities

Being sold at Oddities and Obscura Antiques, sorry we don’t have room for this somewhat creepy nodder.

 

Meanwhile, to my amazement he was selling a small clutch of photo identification badges in a cabinet near the front of the store, just like the ones we had seen earlier in the day. I chose the one below as the nicest. I suspect that these may become a sub-genre in my photo collecting over time.

 

 

A quick look tells me that the LaPointe factory in Hudson, MA made broaching machines. Now, I have to say, that even as I look at the definition of a broaching machine (Wikipedia’s can be found here in case you are curious) I do not really comprehend what it does. I guess I would say I understand it to be a type of bit that makes grooves and other irregular cuts.

Unlike today’s identifications which, while they have numbers generally require a name as well, this one identifies 092 only that way. Many seem to have had a similar height chart behind the employee as well. I sort of wonder – how useful it was to know that 092 was 5’6″ and a half? While this pin is wonderful in all it’s substantialness, I have to admit my flimsy piece of plastic is easier to hang around my neck daily – and thinking about the holes this must have put in the shirts and jackets of 092. Although perhaps he wore it on a uniform and therefore did not make his wife nuts.

My maternal grandfather worked in a Bendix factory in New Jersey and I am searching for a nice example of what his ID might have looked like. (My grandmother was not a saver of such things.) Hopefully a future post on that.