It's Friday, and you know what that means...vintage photographs! Here's a fun one from my own family photos in Nashville, year of our Lord 1940. My dad's dad and his brothers are the protagonists in this nail-biting tale of adventure on the frozen tundra! (Kind of.)
My fourteen year old granddad, his twelve year old brother George, and his eight year old brother James did not heed the Nashville Banner headline "Don't Risk Your Life on the River!" from the January 27th, 1940 edition of that local paper. What kind of 1940's kids would they be! I'm glad they didn't so I could bring this pair of pictures from seventy-three years ago, chronicling the last time the river upon which the city of Nashville was founded in the 1700's was frozen solid. Is it not kind of amazing that they're just standing there, looking cool, a couple hundred feet out from the shore? I would have been scared to death of plummeting to my icy demise underneath, but they look nonplussed about their winter walk on the water. I love the clothes and hats on both boys (my grandad and James) here, and my dad's dad's incredible height. I think I was my full height by this age, but was girls grow quicker than boys, my granddad still had a couple more inches to go before reaching his adult stature of 6'2''.
Here's George in short pants and a coat that would still be fashionable today. What I love about photos of my great-uncle George is how he always has the snazziest vêtements out of everyone in whatever photo he appears. His brothers and dad were no slouches when it came to dress, but if there was a bowtie to be worn or a foulard to be knotted at one's neck, you'd better believe George was taking advantage of the occasion to don said neckwear. He had the good looks and height, not to mention panache, to pull this off as an adult, as well, but doesn't he look confident and awesome in his river walk photo. I also love how some stranger's kid (who looks uncannily like some crowd scene extra in a Frank Capra movie) has photo bombed George's big moment on ice. "Say, what's goin' on here?" his face says, and then click! Captured forever on film.
These two photos are from the Banner and The Tennessean, respectively, from that year. You can see my family wasn't alone in throwing caution to the January wind and running out on the ice! I keep thinking of the first person that morning of the four-day-freeze who went "Ma! Grab the kids! The Cumberland's froze-over! No foolin', it's rock solid! Let's go!" as well as the last person who went "Ah, we'll go on Thursday when I get out of work" and missed his once in a lifetime chance to walk on water.
Did you ever read George Zepp's write-in answers column about Nashville history in the Tennessean? I don't know if he still does it or not, but this was definitely a mainstay of weekly weekend newspaper reading for my dad and me when I still lived with my parents in high school. An excerpt from the collected columns in Zepp's book The Hidden History of Nashville (click the link to see more preview pages), details the freeze and the Cumberland's history of freezing over:
How do you like that! It's possible the city itself was founded due to a freeze exactly like this one, enabling settlers to clamber across the water towards the banks of what would be Music City, U.S. of A. Here's another clipping from The Nashville Banner, circa I think the 1990's. Click for a closeup view.
So! What do you think? Do you have any neat photos of relatives in amazing weather conditions that bore out taking a picture for historical purposes? Have you ever been secretly delighted to see how grown-up clothes and children's clothes were so similar back in the day? What's the neatest winter photo taken of you or your family? Let's talk!
That's all for today, kids! Have a great weekend! Wish me luck at the sales, and I'll see you on Monday! Til then.