Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday Fotos -- A Poignant 4th of July Photograph (July 8, 2016)

Just a few days after the celebration of Independence Day 2016, the photograph above was discovered among a collection of family photos and snapshots neatly stuffed into shoebox-sized boxes. The photo instantly transported me back to the 4th of July holidays of my boyhood in the days before I attained the double-digit age of ten years.

The photograph shows one of the family gatherings on my mother's side of the family -- the Carpenters of Cumberland, Rhode Island. It was taken on the 4th of July 1961 in the field behind the house where my mother and several generations of her ancestors lived -- 551 High Street, Cumberland, RI. To the left side of the photo is the dark green foliage of a tall tree and folding lawn chairs can be made out in the background under the tree. This is the horse-chestnut tree that grew in the field and was the site of many 4th of July family picnics after the clan had returned from viewing the annual Arnold Mills 4th of July Parade.

It is a real shame that time has degraded what might not have been a very good photograph to begin with -- quality-wise -- but, nonetheless, after looking at the snapshot for a few minutes it dawned on me what an important photo this is in the Carpenter family history.  Not only does it capture a moment in time on one of the family's favorite holiday events, it presents what was certainly the last such family gathering for my maternal grandfather, Everett Shearman Carpenter.

My grandfather is the man second from the right in the damaged portion of the photograph. He is standing with two of his daughters and a daughter-in-law. While the date in the left margin of the snapshot seems to indicate the photo was taken in May 1962, the handwritten "61" and the caption on the reverse side confirms clearly that this was indeed a photo taken at an annual family 4th of July picnic under the horse-chestnut tree. [The reverse side of the photo is shown immediately below the photo itself.] Moreover, I can be absolutely positive that this was a 4th of July family gathering and not some shoehorning of a snapshot to fit one of my favorite childhood memories. 

What makes this photograph so poignant and such an important piece of our family history is that this photo could not have been taken in May 1962 despite what must be the processing date in the margin.  This was the last 4th of July family gathering attended by my grandfather for he died almost exactly six months to the day after this snapshot was taken. He died on January 6, 1962 and -- known or unknown to him -- was probably suffering from cancer as he stood there with his family on a happy, sunny day in July! 

P.S.  For those trying to figure it out . . .  I am the handsome young man with the crew cut in dungarees and a short-sleeved, plaid shirt standing to the left between two pretty girls -- my sister and one of our cousins.                                                              

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Photograph scanned from the original in the author's possession.
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Copyright 2016, John D. Tew
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  1. How wonderful to find this photo, John. It's too bad about the faded area. I wonder if digital photo editing might help smooth out and enhance the color where it's faded. You probably already know that if you do it yourself to save the edited version with a different name and preserve your original TIF scan.

    I know why the date on the front is seems wrong. The roll of film wasn't taken to be developed until May, 1962. For a number of years in the 1950s and 1960s, developing companies stamped the date (month and year) they developed the film along the frame of each photo.

  2. John, I believe Nancy is correct on both counts. First, the roll was in the camera for many months, and second, I think there are plenty of people with photo editing knowledge who could fix the faded area. I (and I believe Nancy) see it all the time on facebook...there is a group of people who do it for free and they always show the before and after photos. Since you don't use fb, try google and put in keywords, photo editing serve or something like that. These changes can be done via the computer, so you don't have to go to a location. Good luck. If it works, be sure to share it with us.

    1. Barbara, which are the photo-editing groups on Facebook? I'm not super keen on Facebook but there are some groups that are helpful for gen. research. Thanks!

    2. Barbara: Thanks for the tip. I will look into it and if I get it done I will definitely re-post the before and after shots.