This would have been Mom’s 88th birthday. After she died a little over three years ago, I inherited a treasure trove of photos, some decent amount of which predates Amy and me. Today, it’s back to the 1940s, the years of her tweens and teens.
My grandfather graduated from medical school just before the beginning of the Great Depression. Before too many years passed, he settled in as a family doctor in Erlanger, my grandmother’s hometown. Mary Caroline Houston (she went by her middle name) grew up going to Erlanger Christian Church, and there were several summers in this period when she attended church camp. The back on the first of these next three pictures indicates it was taken at one of those camps; the other two easily look like they could have been, as well.
I see a lot of me in this one.
Even though it’s blurred, I LOVE the smiles and the affection in this shot–the lack of clarity gives the scene some energy. I wish I knew who the other girl is.
Here are a couple of photos with other female friends from Erlanger. The girl on the left in the first one, Irene Bungenstock, was one of Mom’s best buds in high school. I remember visiting her once (she’d moved out-of-state) when I was in my mid-teens.
I’m not sure what Mom would say if she knew I was including this picture. She’s 4th from the right; the one next to her with tongue out is her older sister Sue. The 2nd and 3rd from the left (the Graham sisters) are also in the picture above.
One of the bigger moments in Mom’s life during that decade came when her father decided to volunteer for the Army during World War II (he was around 40 at the time). Initially, he thought he would be stationed stateside, in Texas. If I understand the timeline correctly, the rest of the family moved there in early summer of 44. Shortly afterward, though, Papaw got new orders: he was being sent out to the Pacific theater, where he spent about a year at a hospital unit in the Philippines. He wrote home regularly, and I have over a hundred letters that the family kept. Everyone else moved back to Erlanger in short order; I think that was when Gran bought their first house.
Mom was the middle child, the only one who got her father’s brown eyes (which she in turn passed on to both Amy and me). Sue was almost two years older, and Nancy was three-and-a-half years younger. Here are two pictures of the three of them, the first from 42, and the second a few years later, with their mother.
Around 6th grade, my hair started getting a fair amount of curl in it. Mom told me time and again how envious she was, having had to work hard throughout her life injecting wave into her super-straight locks (including lots of permanents). She started curling at a young age.
Mom played clarinet in the Lloyd Memorial High School band. She’s in the second row, just behind the saxophone-carrying drum major.
My mother’s first trip on an airplane took place her junior year. They’re about to fly down to Louisville, all of 80 miles away, for the state Beta Convention. A stamp on the back of the photo gives the date as April 18, 1947, though that could be when it was printed. She’s in the back row, second from the right, hair flying in the wind. This picture has been in my head the last couple of weeks and is the one that inspired me to put this together for today.
Finally, Mom’s high school senior class composite, the class of ’48. The photo at the very top of this post has to be from the same shoot as what you see below. I’ve seen the picture with the more serious look occasionally over the years, but the smiling shot is pretty new to me. In all the time I knew her, Mom never thought she looked good in pictures, but that smile makes that one a real, real winner.
From here, she went on to the University of Kentucky, where she majored in elementary education.
Wishing you a happy birthday, Mom. You’re never far from my mind.