Friday, 8 July 2011

Sepia Saturday 82.

This weeks Sepia Saturday prompt features a photo taken in Union Station, Chicago. There are two policemen in the foreground, so taking as my theme American law enforcement officers, I offer you this......

This is my paternal grandfather. As he was born and raised in a small town in Sussex, England, you'd be correct in guessing that the sheriffs outfit isn't genuine! He was a sailmaker by trade, although my father cannot remember him ever making a sail. He spent his working life repairing the upholstery on the cross channel (Newhaven to Dieppe) car ferries. Grandad was a practical man, good with his hands who could seemingly build almost anything out of anything! It was well known in our family, that if Grandad made anything then it would be built to last. The wooden workshop he constructed in his back garden is still there today, approximately seventy-five years after he built it.

So, I hear you ask, why was a sailmaker from England dressed like Wyatt Earp? When I showed this photo to my aunt (his daughter) recently, she told me that Grandad was, for a while, chairman of the local carnival society! This was a side of him that I never knew; to me it seems an unlikely thing for him to have done. As far as I can tell, this picture was taken somewhere around 1935; they had moved to a new home before the Second World War. So I'm assuming this one would have been taken around the same time....

This is great isn't it? I presume this to be other members of the society in full carnival rig. I love the detail in the costumes; the man dressed as a cannibal has a jawbone hanging from his belt! If you look carefully, there is someone dressed as a fairy on the extreme right of the photo; you can see part of a white dress and a hand holding a wand. I've no idea who the other people in the picture are; presumably they all had names and proper jobs. But in this picture they are completely transformed.

My Grandad died in November 1986, shortly after his eighty-sixth birthday, and he is much missed to this day. But perhaps part of him lives on through his grandsons.......

These two outlaws are my little brothers. This is from 1968/9, and interestingly is taken outside my grandparent's front door. Two chips off the old block maybe? 

This is a Sepia Saturday post. 


  1. It looks as though they had some fun dressing up - Vikings, Indians, Pearly Kings. You grandfather is a real dude in the sheriff's clothes.

  2. My parents were chairmen of the PTA carnival one year. I think it had a travel theme. I remember a lot of travel posters and having my picture taken wearing a straw hat.

  3. Brilliant! I wonder where they got the outfits from. I love the fact the his workshop his still standing.

  4. Carnival Society! Sign me up! I wondered if your grandfather made those chaps...seems like upholstery and chaps would use the same skills. What a great post.

  5. Wonderful post, Martin, with the most excellent photographs. A real treat.

  6. Great photos - that first one is just so typical of the period. Even in the 1950s, when I was young, those annual carnivals (galas) were such an important part of local life.

  7. What a great idea. Your grandfather and then his two grandsons. It is a lot of fun to dress up and be part of enactments of earlier life and times. Got to do that in years before I was married and moved away from our hometown. I dress up now and play fortune teller at children's birthday parties. Mostly for my grandchildren's parties.

  8. I love the full circle of cowboy outfits. I don't imagine the family tradition is likely to go much further because I suspect other things have taken the place of cowboys these days. Or maybe I'm wrong, there are no little boys in our family now.

  9. Wonderful photos, love the group shot, everyone in costume, rare find! Not your usual photo in a family collection, what fun!

  10. A wonderful post with great photos.

  11. Bob Scotney - They certainly seem to be enjoying themselves, and why not?

    Postcardy - A straw hat! Now there's a practical costume.....

    Howard - I presume they made them, Howard. The door in the last picture is still there as well!

    Christine H. - I'd never thought of that Christine, I think you're probably right about that. I can still remember my grandmother's old Singer sewing machine. Maybe they all made bits of each others costume.

    Martin H. Thank you, Martin. I much enjoyed writing it.

    Alan Burnett - I've been looking for an excuse to use these photos for a while now. I think carnivals are making a bit of a comeback these days....

    (Queenmothermamaw) Peggy - Fortune teller eh? That sounds like fun!

    Sheila @ A Postcard a Day - I think you're right about the cowboy outfits, times have changed!

    savethephotos - Glad you liked the photos. A good picture is easier to write about somehow.

    Mike Brubaker - Thank you, much appreciated.

    Thank you all for your comments.

  12. a smart selection of photographs. i must say, in the group photo, the "thor" figure is interesting. i seem to have a thing for guys with swords...
    thankfully, in each generation there is one excentric willing to put aside any ego and just flaunt it all!! you have two in your generation!! what were the odds?!? unless there's a third and you're not confessing it here...
    great post!!
    that was really fun!!

  13. ahh the carnival photo is my favorite in this post! Could add the 4 men from my post on the bear hunt and they might fit right in. Very interesting.

  14. Ah yes, I took the lawaman side of life too for my post, although a bit different!

  15. Your grandfather had a charming smile! For some reason I don't think of the British adopting the folklore and characters of the US so I'm really surprised to see your grandfather dressed as a cowboy/lawman. In the group photo they look like they really got into character with their costumes. Very fun. Thanks for sharing.

  16. TICKLEBEAR - They almost look like an audition for the Village People! I liked the viking, but the cannibal really intrigued me!
    I'm not sure you could call my brothers eccentrics; I expect they were told to stand there. The brother on the left doesn't look exactly thrilled, does he?

    Pat - I liked that picture the best; such a lot too see. The men in your photo looked pretty serious to me!

    Karen S. - I was looking for an excuse to write about the photos, to be honest!

    Nancy - US culture has a huge influence these days, but it seems as if something got through even then! I presume the ideas came from books and magazines. The wild west would have seemed like another world......

  17. The Carnivals Must Have Been A Hoot. Your Grand Dad Looks 'The Business'.
    Although, I'm Not As Sure About The Bloke With The Traffic Cone On His Head!

  18. A bit late commenting Martin as I’ve been away. This is my kind of post; I love ‘full circle’ and history-repeating stories. Very enjoyable.

  19. Some wonderful photos, Martin. The carnival one is a real treat - maybe one to have on the wall? Even though they are in costume it is so obviously of its period. I haven't been to a carnival for years - but we used to go to a big one as children - The Bridgewater Carnival in Somerset. It was always a very special night:)


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