June 19, 2011

Dad's Facebook Page - circa 1935.

It's a little weird, but cool, to think that I spent yesterday painting the trim on this very porch, since this  is now my house. Here it is in 1935 with neighborhood boys posing for a Jr Audubon Society photo showing off their bird house project.
As my father closes in on his 98th birthday, ( I know!),  I thought that I might share some images from one of his many scrap books that I've found in the attic. Before Facebook, MySpace and even scrapbooking, my father was a meticulous documenter and sharer of information with his 'friends', which he did through his sketches and photos. Who needs to 'post'!. An early adopter of hobby photography, and a talented artist with a passion for ornithology and plants, his teens and twenties was spent sketching birds, hiking with a nature club that he founded, and photographing the clubs many outdoor adventures.

Since I now live in the same house that he was born in, ( and the house where I still live and garden today), I thought that it might be interesting for you, if I share some of these images. All of the images in this post come from my fathers scrapbook for his Wildwood Nature Club, which he maintained from 1933 until 1938, or roughly when he was 18 until age 25. 

I found this scrap book last week, which is timely since it is Father's Day. As long as I can remember, my dad was old. I mean, I was just joking with his last week that I am about half his age, so I only knew him with grey hair, and he was retired by the time I graduated high school. As a confirmed 'accident', I am not even included in the big mural of my family that he painted on the wall of our kitchen in 1952, since all of my brothers and sisters are at least ten years older than me, and then, ten years later, I came along.
My father ( upper left) and his friends hiking on the rocky slope of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire 1936.

The boys of the Wildwood Nature Club have the last names of many who still live in our neighborhood today. Their offspring continue to be our neighbors, which is nice in a world where most people are transient. With nicknames like Pudge, Nipples, Spibby, Rudgy, reading this book is like watching a period film like Cider House Rules or October Sky. The boys spent most of their time hiking and camping in the New England area during the depression of the 1930's.

 Dad took remarkable candids of his friends skiing, playing hockey or just fooling around, which is rare for that time. Most people posed for camera images. Dad had an early interest in photography, and he was able to build  a darkroom in one of the spare rooms upstairs complete with glass plates and equipment. I never knew what camera he had, but we have album after album of photos from this era, many focusing on the boys' adventures exploring.
Dad at age 19

I hope you enjoy these, I only posted about 15 images ranging from their membership in the Burgess Radio Nature League, to their affiliation in the National Audubon Society as Junior members, and more. Later, I might show some of my dad's sketches and photos from his trip with Roger Tory Peterson to Muskungus Bay in Maine as they looked for Puffins ( a bit of history, perhaps!).

Dad is alive and well today, although his hearing is going as is his eyesight, he still visited with his girlfriend today and fed the birds and squirrels before returning to her house for a few nights. He lives with us most of the week, and spends long weekends with his 'lady friend' Clair, who is a spry youngster at 85. Little devil.
 A page from my fathers scrapbook showing his pen and ink talents. I thought that it was interesting that this page shows that the Massachusetts state bird was once the Veery. I'll need to look that fact up.
Dads sketches are throughout this scrapbook.

The Wildwood Nature Club became a member of the Junior Audubon League in 1935, which the boys surely celebrated for many pages in the book.

Dads little doodles of birds, are fascinating. Here are some Ruby Throated Hummingbirds,  just like the ones I saw today outside in the garden. Their ancestors perhaps?

My dad on the left, with his friend as the wore skis in 1936. Looks like getting married was worth noting in the book, since many had this tag line added at a later date.

I love these old ski's and knickers. We still have all of these ski's in the cellar, they were hand carved, since skiing was still rather new as a sport. They used skis for transportation in the winter, along with catgut snowshoes and spruce toboggans.

Oh Dad! Why didn't you save me just one of these!!!

Many of the sketches are about bird sightings, and hikes, but there are some that document many of the shenanigans that the boys seemed to stir up where ever they went. Skunks, bears, whiskey, moonshine and of course...girls, seemed to be the most noteworthy as sketchable subjects.

I particularly liked this birdhouse projects, that showed many neighborhood children posing with their birdhouses on the front steps of our home in 1937.

Eeew.....silly girls!

The boys of the Wildwood Nature Club, in their clubhouse circa 1936. This clubhouse is somewhat historical, since it was in the same field that rocket scientist Robert Goddard fired his fuel-fired rockets from during the same decade. (think -October Sky). The boys reportedly had lots of fun teasing Dr. Goddard as he shared their land along with some cows. My dad likes telling the story about how one of his rockets ignited a neighbors barn on fire. Today, he is known as the father of modern rocketry ( i.e. Goddard Space Center).

Happy Father's Day to All!


  1. Charming; almost anthropological. Given the illustrations and graphics, I would think you could find a publisher for this. Would be a fascinating read as a book. Maybe you should try a small regional publisher, like Godine.

  2. Matt,
    This is a wonderful post. You are lucky to have your father, I lost mine about a dozen years ago. The drawings are priceless. Please do post more.

  3. This is all marvellous, Matt, and marvellous that you've uncovered it. Your Dad is quite an artist.


Oh yes, do leave me a comment!