August 22, 2009

Saturday Snapshots {August 22, 2009}

In my perpetual journey through the history of the mid-twentieth century I constantly encounter a truly diverse and incredibly lovely array of photographs that were taken not of famous starlets, legendary singers or others who stood in the limelight, but of wonderful everyday people doing all manner of everyday activities.

These snapshots of the past are, to my mind, as profound (if not more so) than all the celebrity photos imaginable, for they captured the lives of people just like you and I, who were not likely famous, well-known or trailed by paparazzi. Such images were taken by friends, coworkers, neighbours, mothers, fathers, siblings, all manner of relatives – sometimes even by the subject themselves, self portraits being eternally popular, or even by strangers. Sometimes they’re a little blurry, over or underexposed. They may show someone “caught in action” or striking a pose worthy of a Vogue cover. They show the ordinary and the extraordinary moments of lives which were lived just a few decades ago. Some of the people in these kinds of photos may still be alive, others have passed on, and all have in the common the fact that the era they were captured on film in has long since passed.

In these photos we see the lives of strangers, but sense something familiar about them. Who amongst us hasn’t smiled for the camera a thousand times, some of those photos you likely treasured others were forgotten nearly as soon as the shutter released. In looking at photos from the past we see stark differences and overwhelming similarities with the present. After all, “people”, as both my husband and songstress Regina Spektor are fond of saying, “are just people”. This honest statement applies aptly to those whose names we may not know, but find ourselves able to relate to when we see their faces in black and white or faded colour snapshots.

Photographs carry with them a tremendous power, they are often the last living memory of a moment, a link to the past which, I believe, truly deserves to be cherished and preserved for as long as humanly possible. To this extent I decided to start a new segment for Chronically Vintage. Some weeks on Saturdays, I will post a random array of photos of ordinary people from the years spanning the 1920s to the very early 1960s, which I’m calling Saturday Snapshots.

I hope you will join me as we peer into, and garner inspiration from, the daily lives of those who were a living, breathing part of an era that you and I so often strive to capture and celebrate in our own modern world.

♥ ♥ ♥

{There isn’t a single element – from the fantastic Stardust sign to the stylish woman’s stunning gown – that I do not adore about this 1959 photo that was taken in Las Vegas.}

{The little girl in this photo is identified as “Margaret” and the dog as “Beacon”, the timeline is listed as the “early 50s”. While we only see portions of the houses, it looks like a lovely – and in its day, fairly modern – neighbourhood.}

{I like the composition of this shot; we see both the little boys faces, yet do not get to peer upon mom’s. Leaving one to wonder what this woman, in her pretty summer dress, was thinking as she gazed out at the tree covered Smokey Mountains of Tennessee.}

{A smartly dressed, beautiful young woman works away at the typewriter in this photo from 1922. She is identified as being Dorothy Bronson, a reporter from the Chicago Daily News.}

{A group of female students from Harvard look on attentively during a life saving class. A date is not given for this photo, but based on the lovely ladies’ hairstyles and swimsuits, I’d peg it as being from the later forties or early fifties.}

{A group of five people (relatives, friends?) gather round the stylishly set kitchen table, one of them holding up a delicious looking strawberry pie, in this 1955 colour photo that was taken in Huntington Park, California.}

{The crispness of the colours in this photos from 1954 are superb, as are the outfits the glamorous ladies are sporting as they head into the Cliff House Restaurant in San Fransico.}

{Someone from the 1950s thought the grand opening of a Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Fargo, North Dakota was worth taking a snapshot of, and can you blame them, that pig mascot is pretty cute! Just wish they would have got more of the sleek red car on the right into the shot :-) }

{An attractive young couple, identified as being Rafael and Leonor, pose rather somberly for the camera in this portrait taken in Puerto Rico, in 1945.}

{Jack and Yvonne’s wedding looks it was a gorgeous day – just as their matrimonial finery was – in this undated black and white photo (location not specified).}

{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.}

These photos – and those that will appear in future editions of this post – are very random, but each one is tells a story that ties into the collective experience of life that we’re all a part of. I hope you enjoyed this first edition of Saturday Snapshots, I would love to hear your thoughts on these wonderful vintage snaps.


  1. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed scrolling through these photos...thank you for putting them together! Now I think we need to be puttin on our jackets and heading into that Cliff House Restaurant for a natter!

  2. Hey there,
    I thoroughly enjoyed the walk down memory lane. The piggly wiggly especially since they are still around!

    Thanks for dropping by for a visit. I'm always happy to read your comments.

    Have a great weekend,

  3. My favorites are the last two! So pretty. The somber couple is stunning and intriguing.
    The constant put-together, dolled up looks of women earlier in the century is admirable. Definitely my goal!


  4. Gorgeous pics today. Fantastic!

  5. It's so true what you write about the people seeming familiar. They really do seem familiar to me, as if I was there when the picture was taken, maybe because each picture express the atmosphere of the situation very clearly. Great post!

  6. I totally loved getting lost in each image, really interesting pick's. Thanks sweetie,

  7. Gosh, these are wonderful. I've spent many hours on flickr looking at similar photos!
    -Andi x

  8. Dear Jessica!
    The pics are fabulous! I especially like the ones of the Harvard students, the Huntingdon Park family & the reporter that all give us a chance to dip back into time & an idea of how they lived!

    Wonderful post as always - so beautifully assembled & *narrated*!

    Have a great Sunday!

    xxLola & Nora:)

  9. Wonderful idea for a post! I love looking at old photographs, even if I know no one in them. They're like portals to another era. :)

  10. Lovely lovely choice of images! I love how black and white images can stir the imagination and so clearly capture emotions and memories!

  11. Hey Jessica. These are wonderful. Thanks for sharing them with us. I love looking at vintage photos. I hope you're having a great weekend. Cheers!

  12. what a lovely post!compliments!I enjoyed it so much!

  13. Nice snaps. I like drinking my morning tea and scrolling through them- makes for a perfect Suday morning. I especially liked the picture of the mom with the two children, because the boy looks just like my son when he was that age.

    Thanks doll,
    The Glamorous Housewife

  14. Hi Jessica -

    Thank you for stopping by GirlWhimsy, and thank you for your lovely comment on the vintage postcards. Aren't they just darling?! I'm glad that we are now blog friends and followers of each other's blogs. I look forward to reading your next lovely post. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  15. The last photo looks so similar to my parent's wedding photo. My mom wore a short sleeved, short length dress because it was a "day" wedding. Gowns were only for evening weddings back then.

  16. What fun! I'm especially fond of the Smoky Mountains photo, as it reminds me so much of the time that women really did wear a pretty casual dress while sightseeing with the family.

  17. I love this post! Yes, there is something familiar about these--so familiar that I almost expected to see one of my old family photos amongst them. There is something so compelling about these moments caught on film. And yes, so much more compelling to see these ordinary moments, captured by ordinary people of the time, rather than stills of movie stars or stylized fashion shoots (as much as I love those, too!).

  18. I love these pictures! I especially love the color photos from the 50s, what a rare sight :-) My parents' photos from the 50s are all black and white. I'll be in Fargo North Dakota on my way to Glacier National Park, I wonder if that Piggly Wiggly is still there?!

  19. These pictures are so wonderful! :)
    I love the last two photos, but they are all lovely.

    What a fabulous idea to call this post 'Saturday Snapshot'! I love it! :)

    ~Kirsty x

  20. @ Christy, thank you very much for your beautiful comments, honey! I most definitely agree, we should all doll up at once and proceed directly there - or failing that, the Stardust in Vegas (in the first pic) looks like it was pretty awesome, too :)

    @ Stephanie, thank you, sweet dear! We don't have Piggly Wigglys (Wigglies?) up here in Canada, but I've heard of them before and always thought their mascot was super adorable. None of our grocery stores (that I can think of) are represented by cute animals (such a shame, too, given all the wonderful critters we have up here! :D).

    @ Cait, I agree with you, the are intriguing. I wondered for a moment if this was a wedding photo of sorts. Had they perhaps eloped or married on a military base? Her dress isn't that formal, but it's not a house frock either, leading me to think it could pass for a something a woman of the time might have gotten married. She was so, so thin, I wonder also if she'd just come through the war in a country that was hit particularly hard (France, Poland, Germany, etc). It would be so fascinating to learn more about this lovely looking couple and to know what happened as the rest of their lives unfolded.

    @ Amanda, Thank you very much, darling!

    @ A red lipstick, thank you so much - and very well put, honey. I agree, there is an element to photos from this era that I find I can relate to "as if I was there" more so than with the majority of snaps from more recent decades (60s, 70s, etc).

    @ Dustjacket Attic, thank you, sweet soul! I adored, I really do mean adored, putting this post together and am already giddy with excitement about constructing next week's installment.

    @ Andi, thank you! Isn't it just amazing how fast time flies when you begin to click away through the communal family album which is Flickr? I think I could do nothing else day in and day out and never tire of it.

  21. @ Nora & Lola, you are both too kind, thank you very much for the lovely words! I really liked the Harvard gals too, they all look so elegant (I've never looked that well-put together while at a pool!).

    @ Halloween Spirit, thank you very much, and absolutely, I agree with you, they truly are like portals to another era. Beautifully said!

    @ Pink Flower, thank you, my dear. I agree, the B&W photos are especially intriguing because their monotone pallet leaves you with even more questions about the moments they captured, than those in colour (ie, what hue was her dress, was the sky grey or blue, was she dark blonde or light brunette?).

    @ Keith, thank you very much! It was a joy to share them - I'm really excited about this new ongoing post and am eager to put up the next edition.

    @ Greetz from Tiz, thank you very much, my dear! I'm very glad you enjoyed it! :)

    @ The Glamorous Housewife, thank you, hon! Awww, how very sweet that the little fellow looked like your son. That's precious, thank you for mentioning that to me.

    @ GirlWhimsy, you are absolutely welcome, thank you so much in turn for our lovely comments and again for adding the Chronically Vintage button to your blog. If you have one of your own, please let me know so I can add it to the side bar here. I really look forward to reading and enjoying the resplendent imagery on your site, too!

    @ Sher, I bet your parents looked so beautiful on their special day. Very true, it's interesting to think about how lax we've (collectively) become about what sort of wedding attire can be worn when. Great observation, honey!

    @ Trains and Sewing Machines, so do I! They are a true love of mine.

    @ Lizzie, yes, that is so true, sweetie. I'm inspired by such snaps for the same reason. Terrific observation!

    @ Karen, thank you, my dear. What a lovely thought (that you almost felt as through you'd see your relatives amongst these photos), I think it really adds weight to the fact that ultimately we often see elements of ourselves and our lives in photos of complete strangers.

    @ Kathie, thank you very much! I adore colour photos from the 40s and 50s, too. Sometimes they're rather faded or discoloured with age, but other times - especially if you've got slides that were well preserved - their depth of colour and clarity can be downright amazing!

    @ Kirsty, thank you very much, sweetie! I've been wanting to start a regular series of posts like this on the weekend for a while and last night the name (title for this post) came to my mind and I knew it was sign to get the ball rolling and begin Saturday Snapshots! :)

    Many thanks to you each for your wonderful observations and insights into the history and meaning of vintage photos. It was a joy to read all of your comments!

    Wishing everyone a splendid and serene Sunday - big hugs!
    ♥ Jessica

  22. I don't comment on every post but I just wanted to say that I enjoy reading your blog a lot. I love the old photos and I loved the ice cream post!


  23. Thank you for your comment....I love the way you put the memory lane photos together...

  24. really lovely ideas, I see so many beautiful wedding photos in peoples rooms in my work, I often have a chatter about their wedding days and husbands/ wives. It's lovely to see peoples faces light up when talking about their special day.

  25. As a proud owner of a (nonvintage) Piggly Wiggly t-shirt, I was so pleased to see the original mascot on your blog. Great pics all!

  26. @ Girl With The Golden Touch, thank you very much for your lovely comment. It is a sincere joy to me when someone says that they enjoy this site. I'm delighted to have you as a reader and appreciate what you said.

    @ Gingeygine, you're welcome, my dear. Thank you for absolute wealth of diverse and thought provoking topics you blog about.

    @ MissMatilda, that does sounds truly amazing and inspiring. I've always been captivated by wedding photos and the stories that accompany them, too. Thank you very much for sharing this lovely element your workday with me (us!).

    @ Christa weil, awwww, I'd sport a vintage or non-vintage Piggy Wiggly shirt, that little oinker is super cute! :)

    Thank you each for your terrific comments, I hope that each of your weeks is off to a fantastic and beautiful start!

    ♥ Jessica

  27. I'm really excited about this new feature. I am captivated by the pictures of the mother & kids in the Smokey Mountains---I can't stop starring at her!

    The "people are just people" statement reminds me of this scene from my favorite Muppet movie:

  28. @ arambling fancy, thank you very much, sweet dear! I must say, I'm immensely excited about this new segment, too. Looking at and thinking about the stories behind vintage photos has been a passion of my for my whole life.

    Thank you for the Muppets link, I'm off to go watch it right now.

    Oodles of hugs, my friend!
    ♥ Jessica

  29. What wonderful foto finds!

    I love looking at old doesn't matter if I dont know who they are personally... but it does make me want to know more about them.

    What an awesome idea :o)

    Blessings and Aloha!

  30. @ Personalized sketches and sentiments, thank you very much! I am truly wild about old photos, too. Sometimes I can't help but write back stories in my head for the people in these vintage photos, filling in the details that the photo itself leaves out.

    Thank you very much for your lovely comment, sweet dear!
    ♥ Jessica

  31. These pictures are amazing. I adore found photos and I always wonder about those people lives, creating a story for all of them :-)

  32. @ AlicePleasance, we sound exactly the same, sweet soul, I can't help but write back stories for the faces in vintage photos, too. It's wonderful to know others enjoy doing this as well.

    Oodles of hugs to you, honey!
    ♥ Jessica