IRH: The Very Early Years

Today would have been Ira Richard Harris’s 87th birthday. This photo tour will make stops mostly from Dad’s first decade; I found many of these pictures in the same boxes that contained those that chronicled my grandparents’ teaching travels all over Kentucky in the 20s.

Dad was the only child of Willie and Elizabeth Harris; he showed up ten days after their 11th anniversary. First, the house in which he was born:


This was just up the hill from the Ohio River in Warsaw. His mother and her sister were also born there, and Aunt Birdie lived in it through the, and her, early 90s. We had many a meal in the dining/living room (to the left of the front door). When my family lived in Stanford, we spent the night while on visits (above the dining room). The rooms on the right were generally closed off. A kitchen had been added on the back at some point, though long before I was around. Alas, the lawyer who bought the house from Dad after Aunt Birdie died had it torn down. I hated that, but in his defense, it had suffered from decades of benign neglect and would have required lots of $ to get back in shape.

The picture comes from the early 70s, maybe during one of those overnight stays–I’m pretty sure that’s Dad’s 71 LTD out in front.

I guess we’ll attempt to go in chronological order. Dad’s about nine months old here, with his proud papa:



Dad kept a copy of this next one on display in the basement bedroom/office at their final home. No date, but he’s got to be less than twenty-four months.


There’s no denying the prominence of Dad’s ears. I feel certain that he was teased throughout his youth because of them.


This is the only photo I have found of him as a child with his mother. The back of the picture says summer of 34.



From the same period, here he is on his tricycle.



Here’s a studio portrait. I actually found the suit he’s wearing among his effects. He must have come across it when clearing out his mother’s farmhouse in the early 80s; it was one of two outfits from his childhood that were kept. I come by my packrat nature honestly!



The picture at the top of the post was from his 5th birthday–I don’t think my parents ever let me hold my cake! A little over six months later came the legendary 1937 flood of the Ohio, in January. I heard about this event quite a bit growing up–it made quite an impression on both of my parents (Martha’s too). I’m not sure that I have any pix of the flooding via Mom’s family, but there are a few amongst Dad’s things. This is the only one with him in it as well.  Don’t know exactly where in Gallatin County this is. Yes, I do believe that’s a house in the background.  The Ohio flooded again this past spring, but nothing like this.



This is a cute one, dated May 37.



Then came school. This is a strange composite of Dad’s first grade class in Warsaw, as several children, including Dad, got retakes (I don’t think he’s too hard to pick out) that were included.


You can see there were nine shots of the teacher, Miss Mabel Hendren, later Lucas. Ms. Mabel and Dad seemed to share a special bond; he kept in touch with her all his life. I met her a number of times, particularly when we would visit Madison Ave. Christian Church, in Covington, one of Dad’s home churches. Ms. Lucas actually outlived Dad by 7.5 months, reaching the age of 98. I found correspondence from her, written earlier this decade, while going through Mom’s and Dad’s things.


Last is one I remember seeing at our house, set out on the shelf of a cabinet, no matter where we lived. Dad deeply admired his father. Obviously, this one’s from several years later than the others. I treasure it because he treasured it so much.


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