Running across these photos of an abandoned house in St. Mary from around 1966 got me to thinking about something.
For a long time, I carried around a list of stories I’d like to do. Eventually, I came to realize that stories found me, I didn’t go looking for them, so I set the list aside.
Still, the idea that stayed with me the longest was something about the early settlers who headed out west in their wagon trains. When they started out, they carried everything including the kitchen sink. As the trail got steeper and food and water supplies got low, they had to lighten the load by throwing out possessions they thought were least important. What was the last “nonessential” to go out the back, I wondered?
What would you save?
Before I got around to asking strangers to let me to photograph them with the three things they would save from their home if it caught fire, I decided to pose the question to friends and coworkers. Turned out most folks were very predictable: family; pets, then photographs, were what would be carried out.
When it became obvious that most of the photos would look alike, I abandoned the project.
What did they take?
Still, when I look through this open window, I have to wonder what did the owners take from those opened drawers, and why did the random beads, buttons and juice squeezer not make the cut? (As always, you can click on the photos to make them larger.)
So, what would YOU carry out of your burning house? Are you going to be like most folks and say “Family, pets and scrapbooks?”
No, despite what some folks think, I wasn’t around then, but, thanks to the photographers from the Farm Security Administration, we know what the country looked like during the Depression and the Dust Bowl days.
I opened an envelope labeled “St Mary,” thinking I would find the church and school located on Sprigg Street. Much to my surprise, I found images of the notorious speed trap located between Perryville and St. Genevieve on Hwy 61. My best guess is that it was taken in 1966, but it looks like something from 30 or 35 years earlier. Click on the picture to make it larger. I can make out the name “Clem’s” on the sign, but the rest isn’t readable. What I find striking in these days of digital photography where you bang off hundreds of photos without thinking is that I thought the subject worthy of only one shot.
I’m going to hold off publishing most of the pictures until I can shoot contemporary photos on my next trip to or from St. Louis at the end of January.
I’ve tried to emulate the FSA photographers
This image jumped out at me, though, as something that could have been taken by one of the 22 FSA photographers working for Roy Styker between 1935 and 1944. I grew up trying to emulate photographers like Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lang, Walker Evans and Arthur Rothstein. If the names don’t mean anything to you, check Google images for some American icons.
In looking for that, I stumbled across a catalog of images available from the Library of Congress. Some of the topic include Wright Brothers Negatives; Popular Graphic Arts, World War I and Spanish American War Posters; 2100 Baseball cards from 1887 to 1914, and Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints.