Monday, July 27, 2015

Three vintage photographs ...

Be warned that this little story has no point other than to illustrate how stuff moves around, often divorced from its context, and ends up in unlikely places. In this case, three unidentified photos from the 1890s, shot on the East Coast, that came to Chariton more than a century later from New York City via Bethlehem, Corydon, Hills and Russell, Iowa.

I got them --- free --- from my friend, Meg Prange, who lives south of Russell on the farm where I grew up. She had been helping her mother, now 87 and downsizing, clear out her studio at Hills. A number of items that had no particular value but that someone might like came home to Russell with Meg with the idea that they would be given away --- or fed to a bonfire if no one wanted them.

I'm a sucker for old photographs --- familiarity with the subjects a non-issue --- so I took these, once priced in the neighborhood of $30 each at a previous stop on the trek west.

The photo of four young mean grouped around what appear to be beer bottles was taken by a Kane, Pennsylvania, photographer; the center photo --- men with dog --- at "Hobby Island" during 1897; the third, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on May 22, 1898.

They took on their present form --- expertly hinged into mat folders --- late in the 20th century when prepared for sale at a shop called Time Frame on West 29th Street in New York City.

My friend Bill Gode recalls that the shop owners, Carole Hedges and Bob Krueger, acquired these photos and many others of various shapes and sizes for next to nothing from various sources, matted them, then sold the result to New Yorkers looking for decor --- or instant ancestors. Each of these was priced near $30, according to tags still on their packaging.

Carole, nee Simpson, grew up on a farm not far from Bethlehem in Wayne County and met and married a young man named Robert Hedges, a World War II Army Air Force veteran, while attending Drake University. They had four children, including Peter Hedges, novelist, playwright, screenwriter and film director, author of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape."

The Hedges moved to New York City soon after their marriage so that he could attend the Episcopal Church's General Theological Seminary, then returned to Des Moines where he served as curate of St. Paul's Church and founding rector of St. Timothy's in West Des Moines. The couple divorced during the 1970s.

At some point after that, Carole --- a psychotherapist by profession --- returned to New York City and eventually, in partnership with Bob Krueger, opened Time Frame.

Late in the 20th century, Carole was diagnosed with cancer and decided to return to the home farm near Bethlehem in Wayne County. Bob Krueger came along. And so did remaining stock of their New York City shop.

After Carole died in 2000, Bob settled down in Corydon where he became known as "Conoco Bob" --- because he took on work at the Conoco service station. As the years passed, he sold off Time Frame stock at substantially reduced prices --- and it was during one of those sales that Meg's mother purchased these three photographs and took them home to Hills with her.

Bob died at Corydon during 2010 at age 84 and because he was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of World War II was buried in the Iowa Veterans Cemetery at Van Meter. Funeral services were held at the Presbyterian Church in Allerton.

Meg's mom never really displayed the Time Frame photographs, which were still packaged when they came home with me. I did --- curious about how they were mounted and if anything else was written on them (nothing was). I expect I'll give them away, too, eventually --- but only to a good home.


karen608 said...

Thank you so much for writing such interesting things in this blog.

Charles M. Wright said...

Interesting to learn that Peter Hedges' mother grew up on a farm near Bethlehem. I knew of Peter's Des Moines background but had never heard of his mother's connection to Southern Iowa. I loved Peter's novel "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and when his story was made into a movie in 1993 I saw it five times! -- the same number of times that I saw "Gone With the Wind". It was my introduction to two fine talents -- Johnny Depp and Leonardo di Caprio -- then just boys beginning their amazing careers to stardom.

I continue to enjoy your blog, Frank. I constantly learn from it. I also am an admirer each season of your magnificent photography.