March 6, 2010

Saturday Snapshots: March 6, 2010

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away” ~ General Douglas MacArthur

{There’s something immensely elegant about this crisp photo, shot on the streets of New Orleans in 1953. Here a lone gentleman and his cane stand between the shadows of a passing bus and the glow of an antique shop window. Yet, I also sense that this fellow, while certainly dressed dapperly, was a bit of a tough cookie, a little hard around the edges, the sort of real life character I very easily imagine the actor John Garfield portraying.}

{A small crowd looks on as the ship The Queen Mary enters port in 1939, perhaps they were waiting for loved one to arrive (or maybe they just wanted to enjoy some fresh air while watching something exciting). Though this photo is by all accounts a calm one, you can’t help but detect a bit of wind blowing up off the water, as the flapping flag in the center of this shot attests to, which helps lend this otherwise placid image an element of movement.}

{Two elderly women stand out in this fiery tinged photo taken indoors at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles. There is much to see all around them in this shot though, such as the young man absorbed in a book as the ladies walk past him, and (my personal fave) the sign pointing to the “citrus department” just to their right hand side.}

{The people in this photo are radiantly dignified. The bride and her magnetic smile seem to glow with the flame of contented bliss (as she cradles her rather darling bouquet of tulips), the debonair gent (in his stately top hat) is poised and dignified, and all those present at this beautiful 1920s or 30s wedding shot seem to be having a wonderful day, don’t you think?}

{I really don’t think I’d be overstating things if I proclaimed this striking young woman (named Louise) to be downright gorgeous. Though I realize the skillful hand-tinting applied to this portrait plays its own part, there’s no denying that this girl could have easily passed for the poster child of youthful, all-natural 1930s/40s beauty and charm.}

{If there was an award for the most ornery looking toddler in a vintage photo, this dark haired youngster would be a shoe-in to win! :D Yet, even with her comical scowl and dagger-like glare this child and her mother, playing together in their yard, make for an adorable slice-of-life family snapshot.}

{Seven family members of various ages squeeze into this portrait, which has a very impromptu sort of vibe to it. An assortment of expressions grace their faces’, from that of the denim jean wearing gal who looks like she’d rather be abducted by aliens than have to sit there and appear happy for the camera, to grandma in the middle, who almost seems to be saying with her eyes, “Why can’t this family ever look properly composed?”.}

{Labelled simply “Greece 1960”, something about the lone woman in her lovely polka dot bathing suit, the vivid skyline, navy blue water and the taupe brown sand in this shot strikes a chord with me. These elements remind me a smidge of the sprawling beaches I grew up around (albeit on the west coast of Canada, not the sun-drenched shores of Greece). There is also a note of happiness on this unnamed woman’s face that pulls at you and causes the corners of your own mouth to turn upwards in unison with her.}

{Momentary tranquility seems to flow though this 1938 scene of domestic life, as we watch a man washing a small pup in a little metal bucket in his backyard (I’d venture to guess by his undershirt, during the dog days of summer). Meanwhile in the shot a woman mends a garment in a nearby chair, and junior peers out from between the bars of his wooden crib, perhaps wishing he could climb in the bucket and cool off, too.}

{This is one of those shots that leaves the nature of the couple’s relationship up for speculation. On the one hand the fact that his arm is around her back could indicate they were an item, but it could also just as easily be an endearing act carried out because he had fond feeling for this woman (whose pretty blush pink lipstick compliments that cherry blossoms in this shot wonderfully). Whether they were romantically involved or not, it’s clear that they certainly knew a beautiful spot to posse for a springtime snapshot when they came across one.}

{All images above are from Flickr. To learn more about a specific image, please click on it to be taken to its respective Flickr page.}

There is an undeniable sense of poetic melancholy to General MacArthur’s words, a longing for the notion they carry to resonate true, especially when one learns of the recent passing of the last known Canadian soldier of WW1.

Called the “Great War” and the hailed as the “War to end all wars”, the fighting that began on the battlefields of Europe in 1914 would prove to be one of the most horrific fights humanity has ever witnessed. It claimed, as it carried on for four arduous years, millions of lives – many of which were those of the soldiers on both sides, who went to stand, and all too often fall, for their nation.

At scarcely 16 years old, Ontario born John Babcock lied about his age in order to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. A few months later this ambitious young man would find himself in England, though his true age was eventually discovered and as a result he never actually made it to the front-line. Nevertheless there’s no denying that Mr. Babcock was an enlisted Canadian solider during the First World War (he would later move to the US and fight as an American soldier during WW2), and that he served his country with honour and pride.

Sadly, at the venerable age of 109, John Babcock passed away this February. His death marks that of the last known Canadian WW1 solider (and, I would venture to guess, one of the very last remaining soldiers of that fierce war anywhere in the world), bringing with it the end of a generation – or at least of the those who went bravely into the abyss of battle to defend it.

While I personally believe in peace and would label myself a pacifist, I fully understand that there are certain extreme times when war becomes a harsh necessity so as to preserve a certain way of life and set of freedoms. The years between 1914 and 1918 was one such time, and I fully believe that it was the actions of courageous men and women like John Babcock who ensured that Canada would be able to continue growing into the great and free nation that it is now.

Perhaps like the faces in the photos above, so long as we hold onto the memory of a time and the people who inhabited it, MacArthur words ring true: “Old soldiers don’t die, they just fade away”, the last lingering effects of their valour surviving in the recesses of our collective history and the world we cherish today.


  1. what striking pictures! I love them all. :-)

  2. Beautiful photos and wonderfully written blog. I really enjoyed it.

    Hope you'll stop by my "retro weight watchers blog" sometime!

  3. Love your Saturday snapshots today! And you are right, Louise is just lovely.

    Your MacArthur quote is fabulous.

    Best Wishes,

  4. Just wonderful Jessica, really transports you to that era. So interesting.

  5. I do adore your amazing narratives to the many wonderful vintage photos that you discover and share!

    And God bless all those who have militarily served past, are serving in the present and will serve in the future.

    Lovely post!
    Blessings & aloha!
    (catching up...once again :o)

  6. One of your best groups of photos! I can't pick a favorite!

  7. I love all of these pics but there is something about the woman in the polka dot bathing suit that captivates me! Maybe because she's "of a certain age" and yet wears that suit with confidence & grace..she inspires me!

  8. I absolutely love the picture of the toddler with her mama! and all the rest of your lovely vintage snapshots of course ;)

  9. I live on the West Coast.... You are definitely right! The beaches seem as if they are a world apart!! (No pun intended!)