Archive for the ‘Making of “Images”’ Category
Andrea Adams of Great Cacapon saw the original article about Betty and me doing this book in the Morgan Messenger. She called Betty, said she had some photos and we set off to meet with her on April 16. We sorted through her photos and selected three to scan. One of them – kids eating watermelon — was an early favorite. We keep hoping to turn up more Andreas: folks who call us and say – “I have this fabulous photo.”
One of the things I’m learning from this wonderful exercise is who the people are whose names are on many of the county’s roads. To understand the impact of this statement, you need to know that the roads were named in Morgan County less than a decade ago. Most of these folks were long gone. Mary Mellott provided us with a photo of her grandfather’s Highland Ridge farm; his name — Michael Fairbee. The road that winds through this area is….you guessed it, Fairbee Rd.
We also heard about Doctor Horace BW Rau who delivered Mellott’s ancestor, Elsie Niota Michael for $3. A discussion ensued about how most of the payments in the day were in kind. Another appealing image is of Mellott’s mother, Mary Louise and Anna Pritchard. Later Mary brought me the most alluring photo of all — one of her ancestors starkly stalking across a field, wagon in the background.
This was our April 15 session and we had no idea of all the fun that lay in store.
If photo scanning sessions get to be much more fun than today’s, I may melt with pleasure. Margi Carroll McBee was a saver from a long rooted Morgan County family of savers. There were early daguerreotypes of the Kiefers (husband and wife,) Uncle John in his Spanish-American War uniform complete with sword, and several photos that had Betty Lou — who thought she’d seen them all — a-flutter with delight. Margi and Dwan’s daughter, Teresa, is now the keeper of the trove and was generous about sharing.
As good as the photos — although not to be part of the “Images” book — were the stories, not to mention the names: Anna Matilda, Ida Mae, Viola — and the nicknames like Buckwheat ( a female, now in her 80s) who always swore like a long shoreman. “So did her mother,” claimed Betty Lou.
My favorite story was of a local jeweler (who shall remain nameless although oldsters will know him) who always took a longtime fixing a watch. But being considerate, he would loan customers a watch. One customer caught on to the trick when, after weeks of waiting for her watch and wearing a loaner, saw HER watch on someone else’s wrist (as a loaner.) A watch shell game!
Listening to the stories, I realized how the flow of people shifts. During the 1930s through 50s, locals got educated and went to Washington to get good government jobs. For the past couple decades, the flow has gone the other way with Washington folks coming to the country.
My final observation — eccentrics have always been a Morgan County demographic.
Once the stars were in their proper places in February, Betty Lou and I set out to begin scanning the hundreds of photos from which we would choose. We decided the scanning needed to be done here. Neither of us could face the responsibility of taking peoples’ precious life images and send them to the publisher not having them returned for two years or more. So, I bought a handy-dandy portable scanner we could take into peoples’ homes, scan the photos and never remove them from their possession. For those of you who are equipment geeks, it’s a CanoScan LIDE100. Only$60 and it turns faded, tiny, hundred year old pictures into the 30 MB images the publisher wants.
It took a while and some very helpful communications from the folks at Canon for me to scan to their satisfaction. At last, we were ready and decided to practice on Betty Lou’s extensive collection. In case I messed up, it would be easy to go back to her photos.
Betty Lou’s hundreds of photos and postcards are well organized and collected in scrapbooks and files. She’s been at this for decades and learned one of the cardinal rules of collecting photos — write the names of the people, the location and date on the back of the photo. You may remember who they are but guaranteed, most of our photos will outlive us.
We set up in Betty Lou’s comfortable kitchen and I began to get the rhythm. I scanned and Betty Lou chatted about what was in the photos. I scanned more than 40 photos that day. Among them were a stagecoach that brought passengers from the railroad stop into the hotels in town in the 1870s, a mini golf course in the 1920s on the main corner that was the extensive Van Rensselaer estate and is now a 24-hour Sheetz, and a portrait of Rosa Suit for whom Berkeley Castle was built.
One of our favorites was this one of McCaffrey’s goat. I loved one of the town police standing proudly over a huge pile of rat corpses in the street sometime in the 1950s. I thought it might make a great cover. Betty Lou wanted it nowhere in the book. We’ll see how it turns out but one thing is for sure — I’ll use it somewhere.
For the past couple months, Betty Lou Harmison and I have been engaged in the process of ferreting out historic photos of life in Berkeley Springs. We visit folks, scan their photos and hear their stories. That’s been the best part even though this book is basically photos with captions rather than stories with photos.
It’s a rare and incredible opportunity to peek into life in this special place long before I ever know it existed. Part of the magic comes from working with Betty Lou. She is an 84-year-old dynamo who has been collecting photos, postcards and the local history since she arrived here as a teenager. She knows everyone and everything. The photo is Betty Lou with her WV History Hero award in 2008. Over the weeks to come, you’ll see more of Betty Lou with various ones of the folks who have so graciously allowed us to scan their family photos.
Today we visited with Tom Ambrose, Superintendent of Cacapon State Park. His HQ building is the building in which he was born and grew up since his father worked for years at the park. We scanned construction images of the dam being built that created the lake and of the CCC workers who built the cabins and trails. There was a terrific photo of the kitchen staff in the late 1940s showing a young boy who later became president of the local bank.
In this world where many people hardly know what city or state they live in today, exploring the roots of a place where folks have lived for generations is a rich and satisfying experience.