Today’s post is a short one. I want to share an enigmatic postcard that I found among my grandfather Vernon C. Black’s childhood memories. The postcard itself is a charming artifact, but it presents so little information that I may never be able to resolve most of the questions I have about it.
In September 1932, when he was 15 years old and had just graduated from the eighth grade, Vernon received a postcard from Bruz, a small town in southeastern Brittany, France. The postcard appears to have been sent by a Monsieur Rivière, but it is just signed “M. Rivière,” so might be from a man or a woman whose name starts with an “M”. The postcard is written in French by a person whose handwriting indicates s/he was educated in Europe.
This is the fourth and final post of this series. In part 3 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when he left Colombey-les-Belles, France, through his hearing the last shots fired before the Armistice, until he celebrated Christmas in Mayen, Germany, as part of the Army of Occupation. In this, the conclusion of Clarence’s World War I story, I’ll present his journey from Mayen back to the United States.
In part 2 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when he left Camp Lewis in Washington until he arrived in Colombey-les-Belles, France. Until this point, Clarence had been seeing the war from well behind the front lines. He had experienced bombs dropped from German airplanes and being shelled by German artillery, but he had not yet been in the front line trenches or gone “over the top” to charge towards the German front lines. Until now. In part 3, I’ll present Clarence’s journey from Colombey-les-Belles, France, through his hearing the last shots fired on Armistice Day, to his Christmas spent in Mayen, Germany, as part of the Army of Occupation.
In part 1 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when the U.S. entered the war until the end of his training at Camp Lewis, Washington. In part 2, I’ll be presenting his cross-country rail journey to Camp Merritt, his transatlantic voyage to France, and his journey east across France to Colombey-les-Belles.
Clarence Humphrey Bailey was the uncle by marriage of my grandmother Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black. He married his third cousin, Dorothy M. Bailey, who was my grandmother’s maternal aunt. I was lucky enough to get to know Clarence somewhat when I was young, as he lived until late 1982, when I was 16 years old. When I was 13, we bonded over our love of Shakespeare (mine was shallow—I had just discovered Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet; his was deeper—he read the bard while serving in World War I). That said, I regret not getting to know Clarence better. Despite he and his wife Dot only living two hours away, I only remember visiting him about a dozen times in my life. To my teenaged self, he always appeared intelligent, compassionate, thoughtful, and sensitive. Now that I’m learning more about him by reading the many letters he sent home, I realize my teenaged impression was spot on (although there is a lot more depth to the man than I would have guessed as a teen).
This series of posts represents my first attempt to present all of the documentary evidence for Clarence’s life from just before until just after World War I. There is almost certainly additional documentary evidence to be found, and when I do find it I’ll post an update.
Today’s post is not only about a new mystery photo I just discovered. It’s also a reminder to double-check anything possibly related to family history before throwing it out. You never know what might be hiding within unless you check thoroughly.
From about the mid 1970s to the late 1980s, my father and grandparents accumulated a number of faux vintage photos and frames. I don’t know whether they were fans of the style or whether that’s just the way that the stores they frequented marketed their frames. In any case, they accumulated piles of these that I later inherited and am still going through.
What I mean by ‘faux vintage’ are generally stained and sometimes artificially distressed oak frames with matted black-and-white or sepia-toned prints behind glass. And to add a layer of realism, my grandmother and father were both heavy smokers for periods of their lives, so the glass and frames were coated with a nicotine patina that made them look like they had been hanging in an old house for decades. But when you turn over these faux vintage frames, their modernity becomes a little more apparent. Relatively clean cardboard is held in place by shiny staples that were hastily and asymmetrically placed during mass production. Remove the cardboard and you find that the antique print is just a modern print on thin, glossy paper.
As part of my New Year’s resolution to organize all of my family history materials, I’ve been going through and organizing boxes upon boxes of miscellaneous material I’ve been given over the years by family members to preserve.
This particular photo was one of two photo postcards that were mixed in with relatively recent photos from the 1980s and 1990s. I suppose that the person who gave them to me had a photo drawer and just put these much older photos in with everything else.
In any case, the photos were labeled by my grandmother, Harriet Eva (Askew) Prettyman and were apparently originally given to her mother, Gertrude (Scott) Askew. One of the photos was labeled “Loraine McCrea,” and as I have several photos of Loraine, I recognized her as Loraine. No mystery there.