I subscribe to SpotTheStation, which tells you when you may be able to spot the International Space Station (ISS). Most of the time it’s at too low an angle (behind buildings or trees) or too late/early (or also too cloudy). Today, however:
Time: Sat Sep 17 7:44 PM, Visible: 7 min, Max Height: 89°, Appears: 10° above SW, Disappears: 10° above NE
Almost straight overhead and before my bedtime!
I walked to the park across 55th and got a great look at it until it disappeared 10º above NE. Even in all the light pollution. It took about six minutes from the time I spotted it until it disappeared. Here it is toward the end.
My dad would have loved this. We watched for the burn-up of Skylab together but conditions weren’t right. Still a great moment. And on the way home from family’s house in Eden, we saw a meteorite, which we were both thrilled over. Two of my fondest dad memories.
In my younger days (1980s through 1990s, which, sadly, don’t seem that long ago), I’d collect certain things, like Renaissance music CDs and bookmarks. I also collected postcard books from 57th Street Books and other bookstores. After all these years, I’m finally returning to sending postcards, some yellowing, to friends and family.
The Sierra Club books were among the first I bought. Just looking at them reminds me how the photos took me away from what was then a tedious life. Sadly, I don’t see postcard books on the Sierra Club’s website, and now that I think about it I’m not sure when I last saw a postcard book in a store. I suppose I’m one of the few left who sends postcards.
Marietta Schirf was my dad’s youngest sister. He said he didn’t know how she snuck into the Armed Forces because he was sure she didn’t meet the minimum height requirement.
At a 1980s July 4th concert on Capitol Hill, E. G. Marshall officiating, veterans by branch were asked to stand up. When the turn came for the Air Force, she stood and whooped, to the surprise of our neighbors on the grass. I asked why Air Force, and she answered she’d been in the Army Air Corps. That’s the first I’d heard that.
Aunt Marietta died in the mid-90s. How she would have appreciated the resources of the internet. She once took me to the Library of Congress to look up articles on sugalite.
I will have to look up Front and Center. On the internet.
I can date only a couple of my brother Virgil’s school photos, but tried to arrange them by apparent (to me) age. I wasn’t born until Virgil was almost eight years old, and I don’t remember much before kindergarten (except, I think, climbing out of and dangling from my crib, giving my mother heart palpitations when she found me). My first day of kindergarten was his first day of eighth grade.
I’ve seen vintage photos and postcards for sale, and even bought a few myself, such as postcards of Starved Rock State Park.
I understand wanting postcards, souvenirs of places that have disappeared, changed, or survived — time capsules of a not-too-distant, recognizable past.
It’s harder for me to understand buying mundane photos of regular people the buyer never knew. Do they hope the photos will turn out to be valuable? Do they want to make up stories about the unknown, deceased-these-many-years people? Do they pretend strangers are their own family members, giving them names and histories? Or do they simply want to add old photos to their decor for a vintage look?
I was thinking about this when going through two shoeboxes of family photos. I’d finally found the perfect scanner for small photos (e.g., 4” x 6”). Many of my oldest photos are smaller. Some have typewritten captions on the back. I suspect these were added by Aunt Marietta, who after World War II became an executive assistant with the Atomic Energy Commission, later the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I don’t think anyone else would have had access to a typewriter.
Some have handwritten captions. Many aren’t labeled — no subject, location, or date. Dad labeled most of his photos, at least later. I think these random, unlabeled photos frustrated him — even though he knew most of the subjects. I wonder what a photo buyer would make of them?
I don’t know what to make of some of them myself. There’s a little blonde girl who is not the daughter of my mother’s best friend. (She agreed it’s not her.) There are a boy and a girl. The boy could be my brother, but he doesn’t recognize the girl. two of my aunts are posed with a taller man. I can only guess he may have been Harold, a brother had had epilepsy and died before he reached 21.
I have two shoe boxes and a suitcase of my dad’s photos and a lot of scanning to do of the people photos. When he moved to Pennsylvania to be closer to family, he threatened to throw out every photo. Panicked, I hastily communicated he was not to toss a single photo, and I would take them. I was shocked, but he was in a purging mood. Who knows? A buyer may have wanted them.
All this is a long way of saying to expect to see small vintage photos posted here once in a while, along with anything I know and think about them.
Today is the 100th anniversary of my mother’s birth. I discovered this delightful clipping about a hike to a farm and a picnic with storytelling under a big tree she helped to organize. It could be straight out of Anne of Green Gables.
I love finding these blurbs. This and others are giving me new insight into my parents’ early lives pre-me.
A measure of age and experience, or simply the passage of time, is how many people we’ve known who are no more. When you’re young, death is extraordinary, but as you age it is expected. Every generation sees it leaders, scientists, thinkers, artists, and celebrities pass out of existence and even sometimes forgotten (I’ve been asked who Clark Gable was by those who had no reason to know). While millions mourn the untimely death of Michael Jackson, I turn to the less surprising passing of Milton Ehre, University of Chicago professor emeritus of Slavic languages and literatures.
Like the late Wayne Booth and Ned Rosenheim, Mr. Ehre was one of a handful of professors who made a strong impression on me, yet of most of those I have only a specific memory or two. Saturday night at Wildfire J. recalled something his father had said at dinner years ago, and I realized how vague all my memories are. I don’t remember details or conversations, only sensations and feelings.
Mr. Ehre’s name, with its resonance with “millionaire,” made some of my classmates titter quietly. He probably knew it and was amused by it. From what I understand, he was no ivory-tower academic, nor were his classes easy. Any pre-med hopeful who thought Mr. Ehre’s or Mr. Rosenheim’s classes were going to be a free pass to a good grade must have wished they’d pursued something less demanding, like Shakespeare or Anglo-Saxon literature.
I must have liked Mr. Ehre’s teaching style because I found myself in more than one of his classes. His beard made me think of him as a human Ursa Minor — a diminutive bear of a man.
Except that he talked funny.
I came from what had to have been the whitest of white-bread towns, where almost everyone I knew from school had the unremarkable flat accent of the western New Yorker. Some parents, displaced by World War II and its ravages, spoke with European accents, but most of us with our dominant British, Polish, German, and Italian ancestries, looked and sounded as vanilla as the ice cream at Dairy Queen. My first few weeks at the small university in the big city, where I met Sikhs, Jamaicans, Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans — and New Yorkers. That’s right, people with the truly alien accents of Brooklyn and Queens.
I don’t know exactly where Mr. Ehre was from, but it almost had to have been somewhere in New York City. His appearance, his accent, his mannerisms gave him a character every bit as colorful to me as the impression left by turbans and salsa parties.
With Mr. Ehre as professor, I expanded my literary repertoire beyond the safe confines of the British Victorians and the American storytellers. After completing Literature and Society in Modern Russia (1860–1914), a history department class which at first I left with an incomplete, then a B, Russian and Soviet history and even Baba Yaga seemed to make more sense. It was as exotic a world to me as the Japan of The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, which I no longer recall (time for some re-reading?).
Of Mr. Ehre, of whom my memories are so vague, I can say only, “He was a man, take him for all in all, / I shall not look upon his like again.”