Mystery photo: Snowplow and songs

It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, so I figured I’d write an easy post about a mystery photo I keep stumbling across. I’m hoping that someone out there reading this might be able to help me identify it. Maybe you’ll recognize the people, or the machines, the song list on the back, or the handwriting of the song list.

I found the photo in a small pile of papers that my grandmother Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black inherited from her aunt, Dorothy “Dot” Mary Bailey. Most of the papers were about Dot’s husband Clarence—his WWI service, his life insurance, his parents, and his recent death. Dot had apparently gathered together papers to help her collect Clarence’s life insurance and widow’s benefits. Clarence died in 1982.

There were, however, three prints from my grandparents’ 1955 trip to Disneyland, and an envelope of what look to be color negatives from a 1950s? family vacation. So from the context in which the photo was found, it appears to be from my father’s side of the family.

The photo itself shows a scene where two snowplows traveling in opposite directions have stopped next to each other. Four men are standing in front of the larger snowplow’s blade and posing for the photo.

Here’s an closer shot of the four men:

On the back of the photo is a list of what appear to be song titles. They are numbered, but they are not in continuous order:

7. Old Dutch Garden
8. Scatterbrain
9. Do I Love You
10. Hawaii For Aloah
1. All the Things You Are
2. Careless_
3. Indian Summer
4. ?
5. Little Red Fox
1. Oh! Johnny_

Not only do these appear to be song titles (for instance, In an Old Dutch Garden By an Old Dutch Mill), but they appear to have been popular songs in one specific year:

Song TitleWhen Popular
In an Old Dutch Garden1940
Scatterbrain1939–1940
Do I Love You1940
(Hawaii For Aloha)?
All the Things You Are1940
Careless_1940
Indian Summer1940
(Darkface Dreamer)??
The Little Red Fox1940
Oh, Johnny, Oh1940

Here’s the 1940 Billboard List of Hit Songs (you can see all years from 1935 to 1944 here):

My grandparents Dorothy R. (McMurry) Black and Vernon C. Black got married on December 18, 1940, so they would have been actively dating in 1940. I know from letters, postcards, and photos that Dorothy and Vernon were active outdoors during this time, including being members of a ski club in Washington State. Here are a few photos of them on skis circa 1940:

Update!—I’ve just scanned the color negatives and they weren’t from the Black family, but rather from the Prettyman/Askew family, so all bets are off as to which side of the family this photo is from. If it’s not from Vernon and Dorothy in 1940, then it’s probably from Wadena, Minnesota, and is a photo of my great-grandfather Clyde Askew. One of Clyde’s jobs was “Maintainer of City Streets,” so it may be that Clyde is in this shot. In fact, the man second from the left looks a lot like Clyde.

So here’s where I turn it over to you, my dear readers. Who do you think is in the photo, where do you think the photo was taken, and what is the meaning of the list of songs. Perhaps most importantly, does anyone recognize the handwriting of the song list?

One thought on “Mystery photo: Snowplow and songs

  1. Hey Michael. The songs were a song list for a performance designated by order that they would be played. There is a microphone in one of the shots. Don’t recognize the people. I would go with the music angle.

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