Ah, photo management in the digital age! Life is so easy now that we can fill the ether with edited and annotated snaps!
Trouble is I still have a gigantic storage box full of hopelessly disorganized media from other ages. Included in this herd of Kodachrome cats are frayed photographs, 35mm slides, and negatives of varying sizes – not just of my making but several generations of my family’s!
I’ve been working through this bin – complete with its intriguing mysteries of varying sizes! Like the one presented by this photo of my grandpa standing next to some diminutive dude in a chef’s hat:
I know Grandpa P used to run a butcher shop in The Dalles, Oregon – but I couldn’t guess who the other guy was. It was only when I zoomed in on a scanned version of the little photo that enormous clues emerged! There was the name “Oscar Mayer” on the fellow’s uniform and the moniker “Little Oscar” on his hat.
Some online homework helped me discover that “Little Oscar” was part of a promotional campaign the Oscar Mayer company used to run. It seems a troop of “Little Oscars” would make appearances around the country, arriving in a “Wienermobile” (yup – a car shaped like a hot dog…) and distributing wiener-shaped whistles to local kiddies.
I was aware (as most tv-watching people my age would be) that Oscar Mayer had a way with b-o-l-o-g-n-a. But I had no idea that Little Oscar was a thing! By the look on Grandpa’s face though, it doesn’t seem to have been his thing…
So what other revelations were in store within this big bin of photos? Well, there’s what’s going in this pic:
Recognize Soldier Field in Chicago? Mum did. She told me she and her dad once attended a ski jumping competition there! Grandpa K must have taken the photo while the temporary jump was either being assembled or taken down and, being in building construction, I imagine he was just as interested in these proceedings as in the event itself!
Home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, Soldier Field also played host to several ski jumping affairs – and I’m guessing Mummy and Grandpa K attended the last of these in 1954. According to the Ski Channel’s website, jumps like this were raised in other venues around the country including LA’s Memorial Coliseum in 1938.
So this was a thing too!
Mummy has helped me clear up other such photo mysteries! Here’s a shot of her and Grandpa K which she confirmed was taken on a family tour of the battlefield at Gettysburg:
Mum thought the statue might be of George Pickett, leader of the ill-fated Confederate charge that bears his name. But I learned it’s actually of Union General Gouverneur K. Warren and it stands at Little Round Top where he crucially spotted a danger to the Union’s left flank on the second day of battle. A regiment tasked with undertaking the all-important shoring up of defenses there was the 20th Maine commanded by a college-professor-turned-Colonel named Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain – and with its members’ bravery and canny maneuvering, the Union line held.
Chamberlain was a great hero of Dad’s – partly I think because Dad was a college professor himself who’d served in the Marines. After retiring, he and Mum went on their own ramble around Gettysburg which had to include a visit to the site of Chamberlain’s heroics.
The teenaged Mum in that photo couldn’t have known it but, decades down the road, she’d stand in the very same spot – conquering Little Round Top once again!
So the mystery here isn’t the identity of the war veteran associated with this picture:
This is the grave of my great grandfather who rests in the little town of Bandon on the Oregon coast where he’d run a restaurant called “Dick’s”. While doing genealogy research in Bandon years ago, my brother Rich and I found locals old enough to recall both JR and the engaging tales he used to serve up for his customers along with specials of the day.
One such tale was that JR was serving in the Navy aboard the USS Maine when it blew up in Havana Harbor in 1898. Despite questions as to the explosion’s cause, a public call was ignited for the US to go to war against supposed culprit Spain – and “Remember the Maine” became the rallying cry! JR apparently used to say he survived the devastating blast by clinging to a piece of wreckage until he was rescued.
There’s just one small clove hitch here – I haven’t found JR’s name on any roster for the crew of the Maine. The Navy was convinced enough of JR’s service to sanction the tombstone which Mum and Dad put in place not that long ago. But all things considered (and with all due respect, of course!), I’m afraid I need more convincing that the account of his ordeal on the Maine isn’t a tale of the tall kind.
The photo reminds me that old JR’s whereabouts in 1898 are a mystery I’d still love to unravel so I can wholeheartedly take the man at his word!
I am certain about the profession of Dad’s other grandpa, Grandpa Rothery. And it’s my hope that some recent additions to my photo box might help solve another little mystery that involves him!
In a previous post, I shared Dad’s writings about the cherished boyhood days he spent staying in the Forest Service cabin where Grandpa Rothery was stationed on Lost Lake in Oregon. Sadly, the cabin burned down long ago – but Mum, Dad and I strolled around the lake years later to the spot where Dad was pretty sure it stood.
I took a lot of pictures that day and have been meaning to compare them to photos of the cabin to see if the placement of surrounding trees might provide proof we had the right location. I’ve also been meaning to dust all the knickknacks on the shelves in my living room – but that kind of hasn’t happened either…
Proper house cleaning isn’t the only thing that seems to elude me in the tangle of time. Have to admit that as years go by, the subject of a few photos I’ve taken has escaped my memory entirely. I’ve been transferring old slides of my travels to digital – but sometimes the pictures (which I neglected ever to label…) get mixed together in the process and, without context, I can’t place them anymore.
Like I’m absolutely sure this slide was taken in the charming town of Arrow Rock in Missouri (which I wrote a bit about in an older post):
But the very next slide in the file is one I’m only sure wasn’t taken in Arrow Rock…:
I’m still hopeful I can eventually pull solutions to these mysteries from somewhere in my brain – and solve other family pictorial puzzles while I’m at it! Like what historic spot was Mum checking out in the photo at the top of this post?
What teams were grappling on the gridiron when this shot was taken?
And what monument was our beloved family Travelall parked behind here?
If I do get answers, I must do a better job of making notes of my findings! And why didn’t I make life easier by identifying and cataloging the pictures in the first place instead of leaving them to become both literally and figuratively muddled..?
Another of life’s mysteries, I guess. I like to think though that one day I truly will get around to arranging and preserving every one of these little treasures! And then – then I’ll take care of that dusting!
A great chunk of history here, Amy!! That picture of your Grandpa P, you’re right he doesn’t seem interested in joining the campaign, but then again, Little Oscar doesn’t look as though he’s enjoying his job either!!
I remember the Weinermobile for some reason, but not Little Oscar.
Yes, that looks like an all-around awkward moment, doesn’t it?! Thanks as always for reading and for your thoughts!
It’s MY pleasure!
Good thing he was called Little Oscar and not Little Weiner!
Right..? Was there no one at the table when that campaign was planned out who shyly raised a hand and said: “Um – I feel like there may be a few elements here that we perhaps didn’t entirely think through…”
Hi Amy. I remember the Wienermobile. I’m pretty sure I saw one or two on the streets years ago.
Hi there! I never saw a Wienermobile but I’ll bet it’s something a person would remember. Thanks for reading!
Yes, I’m guilty of doing the same over the years! That’s why I started scrapbooks for my daughter’s & grandchildren so they have a family story behind the photos & events 😀
But I have had a rest for the past 12 months from it & the photos are building up. Eek!
Great post Amy!
Thanks so much! Those scrapbooks will be priceless – and good luck getting caught up!
Thank you 😀
Hi Amy — I, too, witnessed the Weinermobile in my youth. It drove past my house in Sausalito on one of those summer days when my neighborhood friends and I were out in the driveway playing. As for the requested detective work: I would guess that the b&w photo of the monument and your beloved car was also at Gettysburg. There are a lot of those pillar-like memorials there. I took a brief drive around the battlefield when I was there a few years ago and saw some that looked like it.
So the Wienermobile was for real! Glad to hear about a legitimate sighting! And you could be right about the monument – haven’t been to Gettysburg yet but would love to wander the battlefield and find these spots. Cheers and best wishes, Jon – always great to hear from you!
The top pic could be Seurasaari.
A good thought! Mom did visit Seurasaari but not for another 35 years or so after this picture was taken. Mum actually gave me another clue – she said it could have been when she and Dad were honeymooning around the Smoky Mountains but she’s just not sure anymore… Thanks for reading and offering a suggestion!
I’m looking forward to a visit to Gettysburg in early September, about half way through a road trip that will take in MA-RI-CT-NY-NJ-DE-PA-MD-WV-VA-DE-MD.
Wow, sounds like quite the adventure – enjoy!
I’ll be blogging about the trip once I get to MN.
Looking forward to reading!
Well, you may not know where they’re all from, but I did enjoy your collection of “mystery pictures”! For a moment I thought the unidentified church picture might be St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, but there might be a little local bias at play there 😉 Good luck with your ongoing cataloguing!
Thank you – glad you found the mysteries diverting! I don’t think that’s St. Patrick’s but it’s a good thought! I’ve been thinking it might be part of St. Paul’s or Winchester in London but Im just not sure… Cheers!
Glad you are transferring to digital. I spent my 40th birthday (and weeks afterward) painstakingly scanning every picture I own and labeling them and putting them in files by year. So now I can access any memory immediately. The negatives, however, I gave up on. We even bought a little negative scanner, but it’s so time-consuming. Ugh. The Little Oscar thing seems completely legit before the days of PC. Hey, it was a gig, right? It’s a shame to see pictures crumble and fade and so important to preserve history.
I so agree about preserving those pictures and memories – and I love your take on the pics you share in your posts! But yeah, it is tedious to scan them – and I still don’t have mine arranged in any way… Ah well – something for another day. Thanks for reading!