Ray and the boys visit Oklahoma

This series of photos come from the photo album my father-in-law kept while he was in the Air Force. I don’t know exactly where he was stationed, but at some point, he and his friends were in Oklahoma. While there, they visited the Will Rogers Memorial Museum and Birthplace Ranch. Will Rogers was a pioneer of vaudeville and early Hollywood, gaining fame first as a trick roper, and later as a humorist. He had intended to retire to Claremore, OK with his wife and family, and had purchased a large piece of property there. After his death in a plane crash in 1935, it was decided that a memorial would be created. During the Great Depression, raising funds was difficult, but people gave pennies, nickels and dimes to help fund the purchase of the land and set aside funding to build the museum. After the state of Oklahoma set aside funds to supplement the grass roots campaign, the museum was finally built in 1938.

These two photos were taken in front of the original location of this statue. It is a casting of the “Riding Into The Sunset” statue (sometimes called Will Rogers and Soapsuds) made by his friend Amon G Carter. The original is located in Fort Worth, Texas at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. There are two other castings of the statue, located in Dallas and Lubbock. The statue was moved later to a location near the tomb of Will Rogers and his family. I can’t nail down a date of when it was moved, but I know for sure it was after Ray visited, so after 1953. The new location also added a high pedestal under the statue, likely to prevent people from climbing on it.

This picture shows the sunken tomb where Will Rogers, his wife and several family members are buried. Though Rogers was originally interred in California, his body was moved in 1944.

This unnamed friend of Ray’s posed in front of the sign with the name Rogers on it. Will Rogers is a famous name that most people today will not really be able to associate with anyone other than someone from the old days. I myself did not know he had been more of a vaudeville name than a early Westerns movie name. I encourage you to learn more about Will Rogers, including his Cherokee lineage. He was a really interesting person.

Advertisements

Blurry

Today a series of photos that I titled “blurry” in my files. You can tell why, they aren’t the most clear images, mostly because they were probably taken on an inexpensive camera with poor lighting, indoors in some cases. The early photographers knew that good light was crucial to striking the best images, and often advertised their skylights and modern lighting. With the advent of the personal camera, any old Tom, Dick or Harry could take a camera with him on his adventures to document his way. Sometimes, T, D or H didn’t realize good lighting was necessary to capture the moment in the best way.

This little series was part of a trip to “somewhere European.” I believe they are WWII vintage, possibly from before, during or after the war, but around that time. There is a large building similar to a barracks, but more telling are the pin ups on the walls. It’s an interesting peek into the life of this person at a time long gone. Where he was or when is lost, but this slice of his environment as he chose to show it tells us a little about him.

None of the photos were identified. They were found in a massive box of loose photos in an antique shop in California.

Pin ups

More pin ups and a radio?

Barracks?

Soldier, pin ups, backlit

Soldier and friends

French Morocco 1953

 

Family treasures come to us in all different ways. In this instance, we had been hoping to find a picture of Ray Gibbons from his military years for at least the past 10 years. Recently when going through photographs left to us by my mother-in-law, I found an old photo album, the kind with the fragile black pages. She never mentioned it or pointed out the album in any way. Within were keepsakes of a long gone era.

In 1952, at the age of 20, Ray Gibbons joined the Air Force. He was away from his beloved Marie, and they exchanged photographs and letters. Marie confided to me once that many of the letters Ray wrote her are gone. They were too personal to share and so she destroyed them. I selfishly wanted to have a lens into their early life together, as an historian, but I also understand as a woman with children and family, that some feelings are better savored privately. Of the few letters remaining, they are sentimental and show the deep love they shared.

These are just a small selection of photographs from this old album that Ray kept while in the Air Force. He was in various locations around America and also deployed to French Morocco in Africa in 1953. Based on his photographs, he was curious, observant, and often smiling. Most of the people in his photographs are Air Force buddies, all young, all finding their way I assume. Very few are identified, regrettably. Some photographs will have to undergo restoration due to damage from the old paper. I’m hopeful that one of them may be a photo of Ray and his father Henry, as I have no other photos of Henry and we know very little about him. I presume that other branches of the family have photos of him, but time and distance has estranged the family members and photo sharing.

I hope you find these photographs interesting. I did a little research about French Morocco, which you can find at the end of this post.

Moroccan girl, 1953

Church, French Morocco, 1953

Building on base, 1953

Unidentified Moroccan men, 1953

Unidentified Moroccan men, 1953

Unidentified Moroccan men, 1953

Although Morocco has an ancient history of independent rule, Morocco existed as a French protectorate from 1912 to 1955, when it reestablished itself as an independent country. It was originally a sultanate that was desired by various European governments due to its valuable Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. After turmoil in the sultanate at the turn of the century and a threat by Germany, the French protectorate was established with the support of Britain and Spain, both countries with financial and other interests in Africa. Other countries were not necessarily pleased with the French influence, and there were also several rebellions against French rule over the ensuing 40 years.

Morocco is considered to be an exotic location due to its geographical location as well as historical influences of Mediterranean culture. The well known cities of Marakesh, Tangier, and Casablanca are all Moroccan cities with long histories and their own cachet. Marakesh has been mentioned numerous times in relation to the Indiana Jones movies, and of course Casablanca was the location of the classic namesake 1942 film. More recently, scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed in Morocco. The cuisine is considered to be among the most varied due to the availability of spices, meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, and the flavorful combinations that have come about due to the many international communities within the country. Varying populations have created an exciting local culture that combines West African, Berber, Arab and European traditions. Traditional clothing may be ornately embroidered and colorful, conjuring images of Bedouin tribes and Arabian nights. It is currently an Islamic nation with the attendant rules of Islamic law, which I won’t cover here.

Further Reading About Morocco

French Protectorate via University of Central Arkansas

French Colony to Sovereign State via Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Morocco via Encyclopedia Britannica

The flip

There was a time when a curled cow lick was desirable in a man’s hair. Today is not that time, but the time of this photo was. The fellow had his hair oiled as also was the fashion, and combed nicely to one side to play up the cow lick. The shape of his mouth is interesting, with the upper lip more pronounced, making it look like he had just been startled. Let us hope that was not the case. :-)

The photographer used was Thomas Birtles of Northwich & Knutsford. I found a reference suggesting he was in business 1865-1876. However, further research uncovered that Thomas Birtles did not officially take ownership of this studio until 1878. He had been an assistant to John Longshaw, a well known photographer in Warrington. Born in 1838, Birtles first attended art college, became a drawing master and tutor, before health concerns took him back home to Warrington. He went to work for Longshaw, married Emma Longshaw in 1860, and upon the death of his employer, took over the studio with his brother in law, Edward Longshaw. Evidently, Edward left the business rather quickly, and Birtles continued on independently, opening studios in Northwich and Knutsford.

Birtles was a prolific photographer, known not only for people, but also indoor and outdoor scenes, upper and lower class people as well as industrial and construction photos. He even photographed his own dinner table set for a wedding feast. He and his wife had eleven children, many of whom went into the photography business with their father supporting several studios. Thomas Birtles was long in business, well into the 20th century, and transitioned his work from ambrotype to collodion and on to more modern methods after that. His sons continued the business well into the 20th century.

For further reading about Thomas Birtles, the Warrington Museum has published the book Warrington’s Photographers. There are many of Thomas Birtle’s images there as well as many from John Longstreet and others.

 

Handsome face

The unidentified subject of the CDV above has what could be considered a classically handsome face: strong jaw and mouth, slight mustache, straight nose, evenly spaced eyes, set into a well shaped face, not too wide & short, not to long and thin. His clothing appears to be nicely made, and while I don’t understand why his necktie looks like it is touching his bare neck in between the collar points, I do admire it’s pattern nonetheless.  His hair style is what caught my attention, though. What was once very popular and considered to be stylish is now an interesting “flip” of the hair on top, with some bushy fronds on the sides. It was probably oiled to death, too. He looks like he needs a wash, shave and a haircut, to me. But c’est la vie, he was probably considered to be just “the thing” to the ladies in his town!

The photographer of this paragon of the past was Stanley, of Lewiston, ME.

Gibbons Bakery

I think one of these two young men might be my father-in-law, but I’m not 100% sure. (Update, my husband says he is the one on the right!) The picture unfortunately isn’t the best, but it is a treasure all the same. And just look at that monster cake they are decorating! The Gibbons Bakery in Mt. Clemens, MI was opened in the 1920s by Albert Henry Gibbons and his wife Christine Schultz Gibbons. Born in 1891 in England, Henry emigrated to the US in 1913. Henry and Christine married in 1920 and must have opened the bakery around that same time. Sons William (1922) and James (1923) soon arrived, followed by daughter Roseann (1930) and finally son Albert Raymond (1932). By the time Raymond was working in the bakery it was a well established business that has a long legacy in Mt. Clemens. I have another photo I will share soon of Roseann and her kids in front of the bakery. By 1957, Henry and Christine lived in Florida and Bill, Jim and Ray kept the business running. Eventually, all the kids had moved on to various other locations, and by 1988 the bakery was owned by Djurdja “Julie” Bogojevski. Gibbons Bakery was located at 84 Macomb Place near the corner of Pine St for quite a long time, enjoying at least one resurgence in the early 2000s by an entrepreneur who wanted to bring a nice bakery to Mt. Clemens. The building is still there and looks basically the same as it did way back when.

At some point, Ray and my mother-in-law Marie opened the Ray Marie Bakery, also in Mt. Clemens. Marie told me some stories of the early days of their marriage when Ray had to get up at 3 a.m. to be at the bakery and she would get up to make his breakfast, all while suffering morning sickness and the smell of bacon and eggs made her extra queasy! It was in that first apartment that Marie was given the recipe for carrot cake that became one of the recipes at their bakeries. It is a family treasure that I have made for birthdays and special occasions over the years. She shared that her neighbor offered her a slice of cake, but all she could think was “why would anyone make a cake out of carrots?” Fortunately for all of us, she liked it. By 1971 they were working on building The Cake Shop in Whittier, CA. which became another family owned and operated bakery, with Steve, Paul, David & Joe working alongside their parents.

The most recent version of the Gibbons Bakery in Mt. Clemens, MI operated from around 2010 to 2015, at the historic location of 84 Macomb Place. The owner at that time had personal ties to the bakery, having worked for Bogojevski shortly after emigrating to the US.

Here’s a great vintage photo I found showing a firefighter poking his head out of the window of Gibbons Bakery after a fire in the adjacent building. The irony here is that The Cake Shop burned down many years later, fire once again damaging a Gibbons owned bakery.

Here’s more about the “new” Gibbons Bakery:

Gibbons Bakery Facebook Page

Article about the reopening from Oakland Press News

Guitar and Fiddle

Two unknown / unnamed fellows jam on a guitar and a fiddle. The recess behind the fiddle player has quite a bit going on.  There’s a lantern advertising JAX beer, as well as the letters JAX spelled out in an arch. His hat is resting over his left shoulder. There are several plugs in an outlet over his right shoulder. The placard above all that says “No set in on ??? unless requested.”

The young man on the guitar is playing a chord that I can’t identify. Behind him, the guitar case leans against a jukebox(?). And note the microphone in front of him. The table is beat up, there are beer signs around, and in front of the fiddle player is a bottle of JAX beer. They must be in a bar! I’m taking a stab at this being a bar in Florida.

JAX Beer was made between 1913-1956 in Jacksonville, FL. There are some interesting tidbits about the brewery, including them being the last brewery in the US to stop producing beer during Prohibition, and they are credited as the first brewery to sell beer in a six pack. Not like what we picture, the bottles were packaged in burlap bags. The brewery went the way of the Edsel in the mid-fifties, leaving behind only its building and memories, and this little snapshot.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: