Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Photographic Memories

The past few months I have been working to digitize all of my family photos. This includes those from the early 1930’s forward. During the process I’ve been distributing the originals out to family and friends who might want them for their own scrapbooks. The nice thing about the project is that sometimes I get photos in return for those I give away. Many I’ve never seen before, but all that bring back memories.

Family visits to the Grandparents
are now relegated to tending
to their final resting spots.
This week my cousin Danny Ray sent photos of his latest visit to my Mother’s hometown of Fairmont, West Virginia (that's West By Gawd for those of us in the know). Most folks think our visits to Fairmont are strange since all of the family left there are in the cemeteries around town. It must be a hold out from prior generations when visiting the cemetery generally meant time to spruce up the grave markers and do some general lawn maintenance in the area.

Visiting Pisgah and Woodlawn cemeteries is an annual family tradition that is now mostly tended by Danny, the eldest cousin and the only male in the bunch. I try to go once a year and Don’s girls have gone with me a couple of times but we rely upon Danny to do the heavy lifting and cleanup work. (Thank you Danny!)

The mausoleum at Woodlawn shares
a distinguished pedigree with
the architect of Camp David.
While the visits are obviously personal, there is one bit of interesting local lore regarding the big cemetery where the majority of our extended family resides. At the top of the hill is a 500 crypt mausoleum, the Woodlawn Abbey. Built in 1924, this was part of the plan drawn by Tell Nicolett, a Landscape Architect from the firm of Morris and Knowles in Pittsburgh. Mr. Nicolett also laid out Shangrali for FDR. Today it is known as Camp David.

The view from Woodlawn Cemetery.  Almost to die for!

The house on Morgantown Ave
Definitely can see why we'd
assume it's been abandoned.
 So all of this reminiscing was brought on by a photo my cousin sent me of the house that my Grandfather Ralph built circa 1950. It was a small brick home on Morgantown Avenue and was visited often by my family when I was a little girl. I vividly recall spending time in the yard and playing with the neighbor kids.

I have many family photos of the house during family events such as my Mother’s high school graduation and birthdays of Uncles and cousins. In Danny's photograph it shows the house in obvious ruins.  His fear was that it had been abandoned and left to rot. 

Here's me playing peek-a-boo at
Grandpa's house circa 1962
 Fortunately during a phone conversation with a friend who lives nearby, I'm told that it's not abandoned, just awaiting renovations.  My Grandfather was so proud of the house and would be happy to know that someone is working to restore it and live in it once again.

I really only even mention all of this because I have spent the past week working to clear out my parents home and prepare it for sale or rental.  Going through all of their personal effects and papers I found an entire tub of photos.  It will be an experience going through all of these and sorting them for scanning.  Another friend of mine is going through the same thing with her family photos, and we've agreed that it really does bring back memories, some good, some bad, but all worth remembering and cherishing.

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