Saturday, August 16, 2008

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea?

This is a photo of my mother, on the right, with her parents. It was taken sometime between 1928 and 1931. I don’t know the locale, and there is no one left to ask. It may have been on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where my grandparents often went. It may have been on a ship on a cruise to somewhere. It may have been at a favorite vacation spot, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where the family vacationed every summer to escape suburban Philadelphia’s heat. I really don’t know. Everyone seems dressed to the nines, a far cry from today’s beach attire. Everyone also seems in a pensive mood.

In 1938, three years before I was born, my grandmother died at the age of 61. My grandfather lived until 1970 and died at the age of 95 years, 9 months. My mother’s older sister and two older brothers all lived into their eighties, but my mother died too young at the age of 47 in 1957. Last October I wrote about that day in this post.

[Update, 8/17/2008. After writing the phrase “a cruise to somewhere” and sleeping overnight, I suddenly remembered this morning that among my mother’s souvenirs was a dinner menu from the S. S. George Washington and that one of her happiest memories was having taken a “cruise to nowhere” from New York City that went out into the Atlantic in the direction of Bermuda but made no port calls; it was just several days at sea before returning. Perhaps the photo was taken on board that ship, but I don’t recall my mother’s ever saying that her parents went on that voyage too. Something deep down in my heart of hearts tells me the photo must have been taken on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. I have no idea why they are all dressed up. Perhaps they aren’t; perhaps this was what people normally wore when they went out into public in those days. But notice everyone's spiffy shoes! Aren’t they the cat’s meow?]


  1. Your mother was a very attractive woman, and stylishly dressed for the period. I do enjoy looking at vintage photos like this; I have a few I need to find and preserve.

  2. This is a great photograph. I'm sorry to hear that your mother died so young. That must have been difficult for you. You were still a teenager, weren't you?

  3. Pat - My mother would laugh to hear you call her "very attractive." She considered herself very plain, and her older sister was considered the pretty one in the family. (But I agree with you.)

    Ruth - Yes, I was 16. just one month into my senior year of high school. In some ways, it seems like just yesterday. But that can't be right, because our class just held its 50th-year reunion.

    Thanks to both of you for coming back again and again to my blog.

  4. What a great photo - I love old photos like that and this is a particularly good one because they're all so dressed up in such excellent period clothes (and fab shoes, as you say).
    I can't imagine what losing your mother at 16 must have been like - I still live next door to mine, and I'm 52 and see her every day - - I feel very privileged anyway, but especially so reading this.

  5. daphne, thanks for commenting. I had the same thought -- how privileged you were -- when I saw the photo on your blog of your mother swimming in the ocean at age 84. It is difficult for me even to imagine my mother as an older person. She will be forever young to me, frozen in time.