Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sepia Saturday 237, 2014 July 19: Irish Dancers, Klamath County Style



Alan chose this rather nice 1909 photograph which features in the Flickr stream of the National Archives of Norway. He noted that if one is of a theming disposition, you might want to go to the ballet, or the dancehall, or the theatre or anywhere you find lots of chiffon and over-dramatic poses.   I have some of those, but I kept going back to  a more simple life. So for this 237th Sepia Saturday offering, I present the following 1930 photo.






Fifth Grade Irish Dancers from Altamont Elemetary School, Klamath Falls, Oregon
May 7, 1930



To me, this has always been an interesting photo that was taken at the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another.  My mother, Ruth Sigford,  was the dark-haired girl, 2nd from the right.  At this time, my mother lived with her parents, her younger sister Gail, her older brother Clem, and one of her older twin sisters on what they called the "McQueen" place.  This was a nice little farm located a few miles southeast of Klamath Falls and a farm where they could grow or raise most of their food. 

My mother and aunt Gail told a number of stories about living at the McQueen place.  Evidently, during the Prohibition years liquor was "run" out of the McQueen place and both my mother and aunt remember the basement storage for jugs of whiskey.  I am sure that this was an irritant to my tea-totaling grandmother.   Mother and Gail were the youngest of the family, and they remembered snuggling in their upstairs bed,deep in the quilts that Grandma pieced, and enjoying the aroma of Grandma's fresh baked bread or biscuits, and sizzling bacon. It seems that the years at the McQueen place were good years for the Sigford family.  A welcome reprise from the difficult years after losing the only home they ever owned to fire, followed by several  years of subsistence farming only to be wiped out by a year with no rain.  Such was the life of dry-land farmers in the Klamath Basin.  

The family had had a good summer of 1925, when Grandpa with his team of horses worked on "rocking" the road from Agency Lake to Klamath Falls.  When they got back to Klamath Falls, Grandpa had enough money to get them situated onto the McQueen place. Grandma's life too must have been a bit easier as the children were older.  During this period she had time for luxury sewing and a number of doll quilts, rugs, and such were made for my mother and aunt Gail.  But all was not perfect.  My uncle Clem loved football, but they lived far enough from the high school so that he couldn't get to football practice.  According to his younger sisters, his life was ruined and he ran away  --- tho not far.  Grandpa found him the next day up, some twenty miles or so north,  near Algoma, where he had "hopped" a freight train.  Once Grandma's beloved Clemmie was back in the fold, she started lobbying for moving in town where Clemmie could play football -- and hopefully not run away again.

And so this picture taken at the end of the school year of 1930 marked the last year the Sigford family lived at the McQueen place.  They did move to town, and although the Wall Street Crash which occurred six months before had not yet affected this part of southern Oregon, everything would again change for my mother's family. The family would no longer live on a farm with chickens, a cow, and a garden. Work became hard to find.  My grandpa, nearing sixty years of age, could only find work at the CCC camps. Grandma depended on county assistance for food and clothes for her children.  Their lives, like so many others, spiraled downward into poverty. 

Seventy years later, on my mother's 80th birthday, our family threw yet another annual birthday bash for our mother, complete with skits by grandchildren and great grandchildren.  One of the acts, was a re-enactment of these Irish dancers of my mother's childhood. She laughed and told stories, and commented that our quick- homemade-makeshift costumes were not quite like the one she remembered.  However the circle was brought full close in the joy and laughter of the Irish jig.


Now twirl, leap, or tap on over and see what our fellow Sepians have for our entertainment. 




  ~ ~ 

 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications 

24 comments:

  1. What can I say. That was a most interesting story of how life can so easily change for the worse. But its good to know that fortune can eventually be reversed. I would have enjoyed seeing the re-enactment of the Irish Jig !!

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    1. Glad you liked this little bit of my mother's history. I know there were photos of the re-enactment, a gaggle of little girls dancing for the "Gran." I looked for the photos, right up to the point I pushed the Publish button. I wish I could have found the photos. Thanks for reading.

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  3. What a wonderful photograph and interesting story. Too bad they didn't get a big lot in town so they could have still had a big garden.

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    1. I drove by and took pictures of the little house in which they lived -- it's still standing and had many facelifts, but it is still very small and on a very small, narrow lot. No garden space, in fact the house looked too small for their family.

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  4. I enjoyed your photo and story too. I hope Clemmie got to play football once they moved.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the photo and story. Clemmie, indeed, got to play football. In fact he was quite good and had a reputation of being a "scrappie player" --- which was a good thing, I think.

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  5. They had their share of ups and downs didn't they. It must have been difficult for your grandfather to go to work in those camps, but I'm sure they were grateful for any way to get food on the table. Nice memory description of the smell of your grandmother's sizzling bacon and fresh baked bread.

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    1. They did what they had to do to survive -- it was hard, but survive they did -- and even through it there were good memories, not only of fresh baked bread, and sizzling bacon, but that Clemmie, darling son and brother, would make the most scrumptious molasses cookies at the first of the month -- probably when they got their "allotment.:

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  6. A good photo can always be improved by a great story. One of the best features about Sepia Saturday is the way innocent and fun photos like this can have larger complex meanings.

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    1. Mike, thank you. I was somewhat fearful that I went too far afield for this prompt --- but the story of my mom's memories just poured out. Thanks for the wonderful feedback.

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  7. I agree with Mike. The memories make the photo even more special.

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    1. Thanks, Alex. When I thought about the photo, I realized that I had not memories of the photo, or the dance, and my mom dinna supply much, except to try to remember her fellow dancers. So what I had were my mother's memories of that time and place, which for me coalesced around that photo, Thanks again, for reading and commenting.

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  8. A lovely photo, and great that it evokes that story of your grandparents' life. No need to worry about going too far afield!

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    1. It is a sweet photo -- that could have been about a gaggle of 5th grade girls, all a twitter about their roll in whatever school event, but then I dinna have those memories. That would have been fun too.

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  9. I agree with all the other Sepians...this photo does best with the story as you gave it...and it reminds us of how we must make decisions the best way we can, not knowing what may happen tomorrow. Your mom's appreciation on her birthday of the grandchildren's skits is a great reminder that our love that is shared is what life is all about. Thanks, Barb Rogers

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    1. Thanks, Barb. We had a great birthday bash. In addition to the Irish Jig skit, two of my grandchildren (mom's great grandchildren) recited Old Ironsides ( a poem that mom recited when she was a child) -- complete with a rap version --- hilarious and poignant all at the same time.

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  10. That's a wonderful photograph and when you click and enlarge and look at all those young faces there is so much history in it.

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    1. Oh, Alan, sometimes I am such a dunce! I dinna know that I could make my own photos larger by clicking on them. I thought it was just something you all did that was special for your photos!! i knew I hadn't done anything special, so when I clicked on the photo - Voila! - It was indeed larger! What a funny lesson!

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  11. A great image and a wonderful story. I hope Clemmie behaved himself from then on.

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    1. Clemmie was the darling of his mother's eye for all of her life -- and especially of his two older (twins) sisters.

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  12. What a lovely idea to do skits and reenact parts of a person's life for their birthday. Family historians and genealogists would probably agree that this is a great way to learn the family stories and spark memories of stories that had not yet been told.

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    1. We did this for mother's 75th and 80th birthday bashes. On the 75th we had a fashion show of clothes that she had made for various members of the family. What a hoot!

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  13. What a great photo and story, and an awesome idea to recreate the dance from an old picture. So neat to have things come full circle like that.

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