Saturday, April 27, 2013

Reading the Newspaper

The Story
Audrey loved having a camera but she didn't use it often enough to master its intricacies.  After she married Lee the camera became a family camera and she and Lee both used it, but not too often.  Money was tight and film was expensive.

This evening, Audrey was engrossed in reading the newspaper.  Lee decided to take a photo of her.  He silently walked to the bedroom, picked up the camera, opened it and, without a word, sat down not far from her, balanced the camera to steady it, then snapped the photo.  Surprise! 

Of course Audrey was surprised!  She didn't really enjoy surprises nor being photographed unawares.  She wouldn't let Lee off the hook so easily.  No, if he was going to take her photo, she would take his.  She took the camera from him, insisted that he sit where she had been sitting, and took a photo of him, too.  Twin photos, they thought.  Fun.  But Audrey didn't keep the camera balanced and steady and Lee's image came out blurry.  They were both disappointed but since she'd paid for film and the developing of it, into Audrey's photo album both photos went.

Author's Thoughts
The story above is completely imaginary.  The prints went into the album never to be spoken of again.  It would be fun to know how these photos really came to be.  Had I realized as a child that I would have wanted to know as an adult, I would have had to pry the details from Mom.  And no matter the story, she would have told it very matter-of-factly and without embellishment or enthusiasm:  your dad surprised me by taking my photo so I took one of him.  Or, we decided to take each others' photos.  What could have been a fun bit of family history is left to their daughter to imagine.

The Back Story
Audrey Meinzen, my mother, received a camera for her graduation from nursing school in 1937.  Her budget was limited and purchasing and developing film were expensive.  Every print was saved whether she held the camera steady or not; whether there was enough light or not; whether the print was clear or blurry or dark or too light to recognize who was in it.  She and Lee Doyle married in September, 1938, and lived in a small apartment in Niles, Ohio.  Their first child was born in May, 1939.  This photo must have been taken early in their marriage, before pregnancy altered her figure.

When I was a child and youth, reading the newspaper was a daily occurrence in our home.  In fact, we received two newspapers:  The Youngstown Vindicator, published 7 days/week; and The Niles Daily Times, published weekdays.  Youngstown was a larger and slightly more distant city in another county and The Vindicator carried more expansive national and world news but also occasionally published news of our little community of Mineral Ridge.  Niles was a smaller city only several miles away and The Times carried news about Niles, Mineral Ridge, and other small communities surrounding Niles.  It was especially good at reporting about school events.  Both newspapers were delivered in late afternoon or early evening. 

The Vindicator and Times were delivered by newspapers boys with huge bags slung over their shoulders and across their chests.  They walked or rode bikes, getting on and off them at each delivery stop unless they had arms strong enough to throw them from the road.  (Ah, the energy of youth!)  The boys usually threw the newspapers onto the porch and patrons complained if the newspaper landed on the steps on rainy days or crashed into doors or broke windows.  None of those things happened at our home as far as I remember.

The boys usually collected payment for the newspapers on the weekends.  Each boy carried a coin changer on his belt, a special hole punch, and a ring of cards with the subscribers' names and addresses on them.  I suspect those boys hoped to find a member of the family home and with payment at the ready so they wouldn't have to return again.  (Unless, of course, those boys knew a dressing down was coming because of the wet newspaper or crash on the door earlier in the week.  In our small town, mothers considered it their responsibility to help the youth grow into responsible young men and women and didn't hesitate to assist in the training they received at home, if necessary.)  Each subscriber had a card like the paperboy's card which she handed to the paperboy when paying.  After money was exchanged, the paperboy punched both the subscriber's card on his wring and the subscriber's card to indicate that the weekly bill had been paid.  He dropped the coins into his coin changer.  If the exact amount was not given, he pushed levers to dispense the needed coins to give change.

The Vindicator usually had three or more sections, The Times, two, thereby providing a section for everyone in our family should we all have wanted to read at the same time.  Mom might have a break just before she put dinner on the table to sit and read a bit.  If Dad had worked dayturn, he read before dinner also.  If they didn't get to the paper before dinner, they read it after.  But they always read the newspaper. 

My mom used the old newspapers to wrap the potato peels and any other dinner scraps before she or one of us kids took the bundle to our garbage can behind the garage.  She laid it under paint cans and used it for other various purposes.  Recycling was a little different in those days.

How did I inherit my disinterest in reading current newspapers with parents like that?!

Head over to Sepia Saturday and link to all the news that's fit to print -- er -- stories about newspapers and such.



  1. The fact that one of the snapshots is poorly framed and the other blurry makes me think that it's very likely to have been something like a Six-20 Portrait Brownie. Having handled several similar models of Brownie box cameras while helping to catalogue my local museum's collection recently, I was struck by how difficult it is to (a) frame a photograph accurately using the prismatic viewfinder, and (b) keep the camera still, unless holding the camera in the characteristic pose. The shutter speeds were slower than the more modern instamatics, and I think it was easy to fluff shots.

    An interesting study, thank you.

    1. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of cameras. I clicked over to the links and that little Brownie camera looks familiar but I don't actually remember my parents having one (which suggests that they probably did and my memory is fuzzy).

      I admit to being slightly embarrassed to post these photos because of their poor condition but they so perfectly fit the theme for SS this week. I tell myself, I never would have saved them... but here I am not only saving them but also publishing them. And I have the luxury these days of having 6 or a dozen similar photographs to choose between and saving only the best.

      Thanks for telling me which camera it was.

  2. Maybe he raised his pipe just as she snapped the shot. I have so many blurry photos I hate to get rid of so I understand.

    1. I thought the same thing, Kristin, but, of course, we'll never know for sure. I think the whole photo looks blurry, though, not just the arm with pipe....

      It's always sad to throw away family photographs, isn't it? You have an amazing number of really great photos.

      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

  3. I was never very good with cameras before the digital age so I have ditched many that were out of focus. My wife still gets annoyed with me if I try to photograph her - unless she has requested it of course,

  4. I am impressed with your memory of all that took place in the life of the paperboy and his transactions with customers, how many sections of the newspaper, etc. Impressive. I wish my memory saved details like that!

  5. That's a good photographic response to the challenge this week. I enjoyed the newsboy description too.


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