Sepia Saturday – On Parade

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

Four women sit in a convertible that is outfitted with two small American flags.
The women wear hats.
The head and hat of the woman in the passenger seat is visible above the windshield.
The woman in back on the right has light-colored hair parted on the right.
The woman in the driver’s seat wears a hat set back on her head.
Her dark hair is styled a bit back from her face and is parted on the left.
She sports a light-colored and tailored outfit.
She faces the camera.

The light-colored car is stopped on a residential street.
The car displays a sign:
Jerry Smith’s
Sales … Service
Hedrick Y
Fremont, Iowa

A flatbed trailer is hitched to the car and bears a sign:
Motorcycles Lead In Highway Safety.
Three banners complete the display on the side of the trailer:
Safety Award
American Motorcycle Assn
The middle banner is dated 1952. Dates on the other banners are not readable.
A woman and a man sit astride motorcycles atop the trailer.
They wear matching hats.

Queen Elizabeth II and her Lady-in-Waiting arrived at a reception in Brisbane in 1954.

That’s my mother sitting in the driver’s seat looking a bit like the Queen, don’t you think? Mom’s mother-in-law, Abbie Webber Smith is in the passenger seat. And the two “ladies-in-waiting” are a good friend of my mother on the left, and Mom’s sister Wilma on the right. I don’t know the identities of the people on the motorcycles.

Jerry Smith was my dad. He sold and repaired motorcycles and was also a professional racer. The car, signs, and trailer appear to be an entry in a parade. I would guess the parade was in Ottumwa, Iowa – lots of brick streets there; it is my mom’s hometown; and is only 20 miles or so from the location of dad’s business. He would certainly want to advertise his business to onlookers at a parade in the nearest city. But he chose to do more than just show off a couple of bikes and the name of his business. He hoped to encourage sales by promoting motorcycles as female-friendly and safe – not the stereotypical image of outlaw bikers portrayed by Marlon Brando and others in the movies.

I would date the photo 1953-1955. I was born in the fall of 1953 (we can’t see Mom’s belly in this photo) and my parents separated/divorced when I was about two.

I hung around Dad’s business during my visits and the wings on the hats made me think they might be an emblem from BSA motorcycles, although they are not the only motorcycle maker that uses wings as part of their branding. I found a matching hat for sale on eBay. Unfortunately, the seller’s description is not definitive as to date or brand – BSA or BMW?

accessed from eBay: Vintage Motorcycle Hat 1960s 1970s Cap AMA Pin Patch BSA BMW Victory Buco Rope 1

Dad sold both BSA and BMW motorcycles and I just have a hunch this is BSA – a British bike – fitting to honor the Queen this weekend. BMW, a German bike, tends to have checkerboard patterns as part of their branding. But – just my guess.

I think the motorcycles are probably BSAs as well. This 1953 BSA Gold Star looks similar to the bike on the right. But the pipes of the one on the left? My google search turned up zilch. I’ll guess it is also a BSA. Maybe one of you knows vintage motorcycles and can chime in.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday on this Jubilee Weekend. See what other bloggers have created here.

I have been absent from Sepia Saturday for a few weeks. I committed myself to a series that I don’t seem to have my heart in at the moment – plus I have been going about it all wrong. And there have been the ups and downs of life. It was a nice break to just respond to the prompt photo without trying to make it fit my self-imposed restrictions.

One of the (several) sad things that happened recently is the unexpected death of a genealogy cousin I never got to meet. He died a week ago and the anniversary of his birth is today. Brian Schneden’s grandmother Blanche Coates and my grandmother Eveline Coates were sisters. Years ago I found a letter Brian wrote to my grandmother apologizing for his delay in returning some family history papers to her. I think he was a teenager at the time. His name was unfamiliar to me. At least we had the internet by then and I was able to find an email address for him. He generously shared photos and information with me over the years and we got as far as becoming Facebook friends. We wondered when we would have the opportunity to meet and thought about how great it would be to take a trip to our common ancestral home in Durham, England. In fact, last Sunday, I found what looks like it could be our great-grandfather on a ship passenger list arriving in the U.S. in 1884. I thought I would message Brian to get his thoughts. Less than an hour later, I saw a report of his death on Facebook. Scraps of paper and seemingly unimportant letters can be gold to those of us who have the genealogy bug; the generosity of those who share family photos and information is a treasure; and, as we all know but don’t like to admit, life can be unknowably short, so don’t delay.

His side job –

Brian H Schneden has over 30 years of experience in genealogical and family history research.
He works extensively with families of Germanic and UK origin and specializes in Schleswig-Holstein. Of particular interest to him is the region of the former republic of Dithmarschen. 

In addition to traditional genealogical research, he also assists clients with needs in the areas of DNA, the construction of family health histories, and forensic genealogy.

He was a Charter and Founding Member of the “American Schleswig-Holstein Heritage Society” (ASHHS), Davenport, IA, and Genealogical Co-editor of the “Scott County, IA Heritage Book” project.

His current projects include the “DNA connection”, families of “Die Republik Dithmarschen, der Bauernrepublik,” and continued research within his own genealogy and family history. 

As a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), he abides by the Code of Ethics set forth by the organization in accordance with prevailing professional standards in genealogy, and the Code of Ethics adopted by the Board of Certification of Genealogists. He also holds membership in the National Genealogical Society.

I hope the ancestors are celebrating your birthday with you today, Brian, and revealing all of the family stories and secrets we have been searching for.

Sepia Saturday – Photo of a boy

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

November 26 marks the date of my father(Jerry)’s birth. He died in June 2020 at the age of 92. November 26 is also the birthday of my oldest daughter. Thanksgiving and their birthdays are always linked in my mind.

I recently received a couple of photos of my father as a young boy that I had not seen before. Fortunately his name, Gerald, is noted on the back. Unfortunately, no year or place or occasion is noted.

Gerald Edward Smith

At first glance, I thought he was holding a box, but he is holding whatever it is with his fingertips, so it can’t be very heavy. Maybe a large sheet of paper? A school project his mother wanted to document? His mother, I assume, positioned Gerald by the side of a building and in front of a pretty bush and is the shadowy photographer. Gerald looks about five or six years old. What do you think?

Another photo pictures older brother Myron (left) and Gerald. It appears to have been taken from the same roll of film, but probably not on the same day since Gerald is wearing a collared shirt in this photo.

Myron and Gerald Smith

Gerald is holding a man-sized lunch pail and Myron has something behind his back. Maybe the boys share the lunch box and Myron is holding a book satchel they share. Gerald’s clothes fit him well, but Myron’s jeans are those purchased by a frugal mother – rolled up and held up – while he grows into them. The boys are neat and clean – maybe waiting for the bus on their first day of school. A reasonable guess, I think.

And who knows, maybe these are before and after shots with that collared shirt now unbuttoned and fallen down behind the overalls and neatly combed hair now pushed to the opposite side after running around on the school yard.

Enough maybes and guesses for today.

The Sepia Saturday prompt photo features a closeup of a boy in a deck chair. Sit back, get comfortable, and visit Sepia Saturday to see what others have shared.

Is this Anything? Bluebirds of Happiness

David Letterman used to do a sketch called “Is This Anything?” The curtain would rise on an individual or group performing an unusual stunt, then Dave and Paul Shaffer would discuss whether the act was “something” or “nothing.” I can imagine my children playing a version of this sketch as they go through the contents of our home sometime in the future. To help them with this task, I will randomly select something in our home and answer these questions: What is this and is it a family thing? Then they can decide if it is “something” or “nothing.”

I’ll begin with these bluebirds that nest on a baker’s rack in our kitchen/family area where I can see them every day. They make me smile.

I put them away when I decorate for Christmas, but I am always happy for their return in the spring. Sometimes they are configured differently – whatever fits my mood.

Of course, they are also the header photo for this blog.

The bluebird set belonged to my Grandmother Abbie, although I have no memory of them in her home. When I visited my father a few years after her death, I learned that what remained of her belongings was stored in a warehouse. I asked to go and see what was there. I was pretty disappointed, to say the least. The warehouse was dark and dank. There were not many of her things left and what was there were pretty much thrown in piles and boxes. There was water and insect damage. I rescued what I could.

I packed what would fit into our suitcases for the flight home. Unfortunately one of the little salt and pepper shakers was severely injured. In retrospect, I should have paid for proper shipping. Also in retrospect, I should have tried to replace the little shaker back then, as the prices have gone up considerably.

This set includes a planter (Mama with rhinestone eyes), creamer, lidded sugar dish, and salt and pepper shakers (also with rhinestone eyes).

They were manufactured by The Lefton Company.

Information from Collector’s Weekly helps to date them:
From 1945 through 1953, these pieces were stamped with the words “Made in Occupied Japan.” Figures from 1946 to 1953 may also bear a red sticker with either silver or gold trim on their bases, which reads “Lefton’s Exclusives Japan.” Objects made after 1953 added the words “Reg. U.S. Pat. Off,” while those made after 1960 swap that phrase for the simpler “Trade Mark.” Unfortunately, during the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, the use of these stickers (and others) overlapped, so they are not a perfectly reliable way to date a piece of Lefton.

So, sometime 1953-1960 seems right.

I wonder if someone gave them to Grandma as a gift, or if she couldn’t help herself and gave herself a gift. If anyone can answer that question, please do!

Is it a family thing? Yes.