Saturday, November 23, 2013

Archive: Vic's Photos #5

The Menominee River from our front lawn (late 1940’s)

Dear George,
This is number five in a series of cumulative archives of family photos taken by my dad, Vic L., in Menominee Mich. in the 1940s and 50s.  These images previously appeared on a rotating weekly basis in this blog’s righthand column under the label, “Vic’s Photos”.  The earlier four archives can be accessed by going to the righthand column, scrolling down to “Labels”, and clicking on “Archives”.  My father documented our home and family lives during our childhood and adolescent years and beyond.  My brother Peter reprinted these images from Vic’s original negatives in the form of postcards, and his project is the source of most of the photos contained here.  A few also come from family photo albums.  The subjects include my parents Doris and Vic; my brothers Steven and Peter, my sister Vicki, and myself; and various other family members and friends who will be identified as they appear.  Thanks to Vic and later to Peter for chronicling our family history. 

This is my brother Steven, perhaps a year and a half old (circa 1942), on our front lawn on the river bank.  We used that wheelbarrow a lot for gardening, toting firewood and coal, and various chores.  My mother was the family gardener and annually planted a lengthy garden of flowers along the rock wall which separated our yard from the field next door.  

This is my mom and my two-year old self on the couch at our Ogden Avenue apartment.  It’s a funny thing about childhood memories.  I think it all becomes so familiar and repetitive that it simply vanishes from memory.  I can’t remember much about my early experiences with my mother or my father, though mom and son both look pretty happy on this occasion.  

Vicki (b. 1947) and Peter (1945) were younger than Steve (1941) and myself (1937). and Steve and I always referred to them as “the babes”, with a mixture of affection and dominance.  Here you can glimpse the affection component.  Vicki’s looking very intense and Peter’s looking very sweet, a pretty typical scenario.  

My uncles Kent (right ) and Karl were identical twins, though they differed in temperament (Kent more serious, Karl more ebullient).  Kent was married to Millie (pictured), while Karl was a bachelor for most of his life.  Thor was the oldest of Kent and Millie’s three boys.  We’d have a big extended family gathering at  our house at Xmas, and this photo was taken on one of those occasions.  Karl would drive up from Neenah-Menasha where he worked at the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, and he’d deliver a carload of wonderful presents to all – like having Santa in the family.  

Here’s my mom with a beer, me with a spoon, and an unidentified girl sitting in the sandbox.  That’s probably a representative image.  One of my earliest memories at age three or four involved feeling uncomfortable with other children.  I didn’t seem to know how to play.  Neither I nor the girl in the photo appear to be social butterflies.  

Xmas was always a wondrous time in our childhood.  We fully believed in Santa for a long time, and he always came through.  And we took care that each successive sibling maintained his or her beliefs as long as possible.  In the gift department, we were a lot more interested in toys than in new clothing, though we always got some of both.  This is our mom, my younger brother Steve, and myself (age 5 or 6).  

Florence and Bill Caley were two of my mom’s and dad’s closest friends, and they were parents of our childhood friends Bill Jr., Tom, and Bruce.  Bill Sr. was a business executive, boater, artist, host, and man about town.  Florence was a former English teacher, housewife, and a devoted mom.  She was a very warm, supportive person who occasionally counseled me when I encountered teenage crises.  She always had wise and knowledgeable advice to offer. 

I wonder if I’m holding an engineering blueprint in order to construct these architectural wonders.  Frankly the scene looks a little staged to me, though it looks like I had some nice play things.  

This is Kevin (Kiera) O’Hara, my brother Peter, and my sister Vicki, looking over a photo album.  Vicki has a big grin on her face.  Kevin and Vicki were best friends, and Peter, two years older than Vicki, would frequently join them in their pursuits. 

When I was in eighth grade my dad and one of his World War II veteran acquaintances formed a troop of Air Scouts in Menominee, an advanced group of 14-year-olds that kids joined after completing regular scouting.  Our peak experience of the year was a trip to O’Hare Air Base in Chicago, where we slept in pup tents near a runway at night and did Air Force-like things in the day.  O’Hare was having a simulated lockdown during our trip, so tension was high.  We also visited the Maxwell Street Flea Market in the city.  This is one of my fellow Air Scouts, Jim Hazel, somewhere in downtown Chicago.  

My mother, Doris L., was an avid horseback rider in her younger years, stemming back to her days as a young girl growing up in Omaha.  In Menominee there was a riding stable near the intersection of Riverside Boulevard and Highway 577 at the edge of town.  I seem to be accompanying Doris on this trip, though I have no recollection of being on a full-sized horse in my childhood.   

Jean O’Hara was one of my parents’ dearest friends, and she was mom to Terry, Michael Dennis, Kevin (Kiera), and Patrick Sean.  This is a picture of Jean with Kevin (circa 1947).  

My parents always encouraged their childrens’ arts and crafts activites, and, when I got to fifth or sixth grade, I started creating dioramas of various peopled scenes, e.g., a symphony orchestra or a pirate ship.  The content of this project is hard to make out from the photo, but I’m sure that many hours and emotions went into its construction.  

I have strong recollections of the various trees at our family home on the Menominee River – Norway pines, the weeping willow, oaks, maples, cedar, and, of course, the birch trees.  This group is right on the river bank, and there was another extensive stand of birches growing between our property and our next door neighbors, the Orths.  My siblings and I would gather up birch bark and use it for writing messages, constructing miniature birchbark canoes, and lighting fires.

This is me (left) and my younger brother Steve, age two or three.  I’m feeding him a drink from a Kodak acid container which appears to be labeled “Poison”.  I’m not sure if my photographer father was gathering evidence to use as Prosecuting Attorney, or if this simply reflects his quirky sense of humor.  In any case, I used to act sufficiently malevolently toward my younger brother that the fratricidal theme of this photo isn’t total fantasy.

Here’s my cutie sister Vicki around 1948 or 1949, clutching her doll at the Xmas tree in our living room.  She looks like she’s going to have a lot of important things to say to the world.  And, unsurprisingly, that’s how it turned out.  

My brother Steve is playing quarterback in the front yard of our house on the Menominee River.  This is one of the few photos in which we seem to look very similar in terms of common family facial features.  Steve and I, as well as Peter and Vicki a few years later, played a lot of football in the front yard over the years, centering the ball, running passing routes, and kicking field goals over a clothesline tied between the Norway Pines.  Four years older than Steve, I was the dominant player in our younger years, but the older we got the clearer it was that Steve was the superior athlete in our family. 

My sister Vicki (left) and her best friend Kevin (now Kiera) are decked out in their tap dancing uniforms.  I was away at college and missed out on their gala performances, but my brother Peter, who sent me this postcard image, said that this accomplished pair of dancers performed for a TV production filmed at the Marinette TV station.   

Each summer I’d be sent (entirely against my will) to YMCA camp near Green Bay.  The camp was situated on a lake, so swimming and boating were part of the daily activities.  Families would come up on a Sunday visiting day, and I always fantasized my parents would take me home if I looked and acted morose enough.  But it never worked.  

We enjoyed many grand sunsets on the Menominee River.  I suspect this is our mom standing on the boat dock off our front lawn.  Pig Island is in the background.  Doris cherished sunsets over the river and would call us all out of the house at twilight to watch them.  


  1. The baby picture is Mother w/Kiera (Kevin); she and Sean were only 18 months apart.

    1. Thanks, Terry. I've corrected the information on the post.