I started in once again on everyone’s perennial New Year’s resolution–get organized.

The same thing happens every year and every year I forget the reason I failed to get organized.

I started going through old files and then–”Hey, look at this!”

So, today instead of New Year’s resolutions (do I hear you saying thank God?) we have an amalgam of things vaguely related to health and healthcare that made me go, “Hey, look at this.”

I have written before about epidemics and their effects on our families. On a recent visit my sister-in-law brought some things her mother had stored away. One was this page of clippings about the death of relatives in Sprague, Washington. Three members of one family died within three weeks during a flu outbreak in the winter of 1928 and 1929.

Mary McDonald McHugh was born in 1872, the daughter of Patrick McDonald, N’s great-grandfather. She was my mother-in law, Marian’s aunt. I think my mother-in-law may have been a favorite niece and Mary a favorite aunt. Among the things my mother-in-law kept was this dress, crocheted for her by her Aunt Mary. It is about 100 years old now and looks like new, a tribute to my mother-in-law’s ability to organize and preserve.

Mary was the first of the family to die on December 29, 1928. Her one year old granddaughter, Harriet died two weeks later, followed a week later by Harriet’s ten year old sister, Dorothy. Virtually every member of the family contracted pneumonia following the flu and many were hospitalized in Spokane, a 50-minute trip now, longer then.

When one year old Harriet died her sister, her mother, and her aunt were also patients in the hospital.

It is difficult to imagine losing your mother and two children while you are suffering through a potentially life threatening illness yourself.

The other item I found is from my side of the family and a happier keepsake. It is the contract my mother signed with the pediatrician when my brother was born in 1942. The doctor promises to visit once a week for six weeks and again at two months. In addition my mother will bring the baby to the doctor’s office once a month for checkups and vaccinations for the first year. My mother promises to pay Dr. Grossman $45.00 in installments. On the reverse side is a list the payments she made, 14 in all, mostly for three dollars initialed by the doctor.

When I cleaned out my mother’s house I found every utility bill she had paid since she moved into the house in 1954, every card she had ever received and a host of other things that made me crazy. On the other hand I also found this contract and my father’s elementary school photos and my early report cards. So, while I never quite seem to get organized, I am grateful that I have so much to organize.

Photography has been a vital element of family history since its earliest days.  We cherish the oldest photographs taken when photography was an art practiced by a knowledgeable few.  Now we live in an age where every moment of our children’s lives is recorded, photographed, videotaped.

The photos I have been looking at lately were taken by a bygone class of photographers, itinerant street photographers.  These photographers would come to the neighborhood and take pictures of the children.  The pictures could then be sold to the proud parents.  In the neighborhood where my family lived  when I was young the photographer came with a prop, a pony and sometimes cowboy or girl costumes.  No urban kid could resist climbing on the pony and it was a hardhearted parent who wouldn’t scrape together the money for a photo.

I believe I must have some of the earliest of these “pony” photos.

The first photo I have of our neighborhood pony is one of my mother’s cousins taken around 1906.

Ida and Belle

 

Here is my father about 1916.

My Father 1916

My mother’s twin brothers were not far behind in 1924 and my cousin Danny in 1928

Herb and Syd

Danny 1928

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The later era of pony photography included costumes.

My brother about 1947

Two of my cousin Hank.

 

Cousin Hank

Cousin Hank

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a picture of me on that pony, but I cannot lay my hands on it.  So, here is a picture of me at the age of three.

Me--No Pony

Please imagine me sitting on that pony in full cowgirl regalia imagining a life in the wide open spaces.

Finally, any of you who have looked at these pictures can plainly see that there is more than one pony involved between 1906 an 1954.  Yet in my mind and my heart there was one pony and I loved that pony in the way that only a small girl can love a pony.  I love him to this day.  In my mind’s eye I see him romping in pony heaven, munching on whatever ponies like to munch on, perhaps accompanied by a lovely female pony and surrounded by adoring little ponies.  That’s the way I see it.  Please don’t mess it up with reality, there’s way more than enough reality to go around.

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