Who’s that woman spanking mom with what looks like a bottle of hair dye?
There she is in that old black-and-white Kodak photo: mom, grinning with glee but trying to look boo-hoo cry-baby. She’s leaning across the lap of a friend, who is mugging meanly at the camera, holding that bottle high in the air, ready to bring it down over mom’s butt.
Who is she? I look on the back of the photo. No names, no dates. Wasn’t her first name Adeline? Schnettler was it? Schneider? Yeah, that sounds right. No, no, no . . . it wasn’t that, either. Close, though. Dang, it’s on the tip of my tongue. Ummm . . . Schneiderhan? Naw.
When looking at that photo and many other old ones the other day, I was stumped time and again by the “where, who, what, when, why” in each snapshot.
I used to know all that, when mom and dad were there to tell me. On lazy rainy days, so long ago, we kids would dip into the Dalman Memory Trunk, as we called it. Inside the big steel box were hundreds of snapshots taken in the olden days, long before we kids were born. Perusing those photos was like seeing glimpses of alien invaders, a couple of whom later turned into our parents.
“Mom, is that really you in this picture?” we’d say, laughing. “Look at those gooney curls on your head, and get a load of those glasses with no frames on ‘em. And that dress! It’s practically down to your ankles. Looks like you were some kind of old-maid hillbilly.”
Mom or dad would laugh, enjoying the memories captured in the photos. Then they would tell us who else is in the photo, how they got to know them, when and where the photo was taken, and so forth. Trips down Memory Lane.
I do remember some things about the one of mom being spanked with the bottle. I recall her telling us kids it was taken in her rooming house in the early 1940s when she was a student at St. Cloud Teachers’ College (now St. Cloud State University). She and other students who roomed there were goofing off one day when what’s-her-name grabbed a bottle and pretended to spank mom. Come to think of it, that bottle was hair dye, and it belonged to an old woman who lived in part of that house. Located near the college, that same house was bought later by mom and dad a few years after they got married, and I was born and raised in it. The little old lady, Mrs. Laughton, continued to live in part of the house as a renter, and we kids would have to wait on her when she needed something. She’d ring a loud hand bell, and we’d go slouching to her side of the house:
“Yeah, Mrs. Laughton, what now?” we’d ask in a glum, hang-dog way.
Funny how an old photo – a split-second of captured time – can unlock so many memories.
I wonder if kids today dip into their parents’ photo stashes. Do they know who is in the photos, when they were taken, why they were taken? Probably not. That’s because so many people do not label them. We think we’ll remember all about the snapshots years from now, but of course we won’t; we don’t. Memories, sad to say, fade quicker than an old picture.
And will future kids even have photographs to dip into? We kids used to love to pass those pictures around like playing cards as we hooted and giggled, pondering about them. Nowadays, in this Digital Age, it’s more likely you’ll see people squinting at pictures on iPhones. What’s even likelier is many of those photos will end up deleted – dead in cyberspace – never to be printed out as actual pictures to hold, never to be enjoyed again by anybody. The coming generations will probably lack a snapshot legacy unless people start downloading pictures, printing them or saving them to discs instead of deleting them.
That has long been one of my pet peeves: people who don’t label and date photographs. In defense of my parents, most of those old pictures were labeled with dates and other information, but it was written right under the photos that had been pasted in black-paged photo books, long before the pictures were rather rudely ripped from the books, becoming stray orphans in stacks within the memory trunk.
I always tell people this: Do your kids, grandkids and great-grandkids a favor; label all your snapshots with the five “W’s” – When, Who, What, Where, Why. Doing so will help them, on some future rainy day, connect with their heritage, allowing them to unlock and to enjoy the marvelous, mysterious past.