Monday, January 07, 2008

golden sunsets in 1970s amherstburg

Amherstburg Coast Guard at Sunset, early 1970s
Amherstburg Coast Guard station, looking towards Boblo Island, early 1970s

As is usual for the holidays, I drove back to Toronto with a full trunk. Tucked among the gifts, Trader Joe's bags and ironed shirts was a box of photos that sat around the house for years. Spurred by regular visits to historical image sites such as International Metropolis along with several Flickr contacts who recently posted vintage photos from their families, I figured there might be interesting shots lurking within.

While most of our family photos are housed in albums, there are a pile from the early 1970s that never earned this honour. Most of these photos were family candids, local landscapes or closeups of flowers. These photos were originally in a small box, then placed in a larger shoebox when pictures ranging from Granddad's 1950s fishing trips to Amy's university outtakes were added.

But it's the core photos that grabbed my attention. Why they weren't placed in an album is a mystery. Mom's speculation is that they may have belonged to somebody else in the family, though I have my doubts in most cases. My theories:

* There is only one album that covers the six years between my parents' marriage and my arrival. Perhaps it was assembled sometime after my birth and they decided to choose the highlights of the photos they took during this time. Basis for this theory: There are pictures of my parents on a picnic and candids of my cousins in the box that appear to be outtakes of those in the album.

* The albums were meant to show pictures of people only. Basis for this theory: Distinct lack of non-human shots.

* The landscape pictures in the box were done just for fun. Basis for this theory: My photo-taking habits.

* The world didn't need to know what high school secretaries did when they got together for dinner. Basis for this theory: Human nature. Relax Mom, those aren't going to be posted...

I have started scanning the sharpest or most historically-interesting shots and set up a folder on Flickr. I'll post several on here and the stories that may surround them.

***

Today's first pick is one of several photos showing golden sunsets around Amherstburg and along the Detroit River. Dad always like to drive or walk along the Detroit River at dusk and I don't blame him. The high level of pollution in the air, mostly from the heavy industrial plants upstream, produce spectacular colours. Combine this with boats, a shimmering river and the skyline of islands or the American shoreline and you have a recipe for a spectacular sight to end the day. Slight aging of the photo paper adds to the rich colour.

I suspect this picture was shot from the apartment building across the street from the Coast Guard, where my parents lived for a few years before I was born. Taking the same shot today would yield similar results - the only major changes would be the types of vehicles in the parking lot and residences on Boblo Island.

Backyards at Sunset, early 1970s
Another sunset, this time taken from the backyard of the house I grew up in. My guess on the date is 1973-75. The intersection in the background is Pickering and Hawthorn/Cherrylawn. This would be the early days of this subdivision as few trees are evident - three-and-a-half decades of growth have now made the neighbourhood semi-shaded. The fences have also inched higher over the years, though we kept the low fence for as long as we lived there. Neighbour and playmate visits tend to involve a climb or jump over the fence. Very little of our yard is visible in this shot, so even if there wasn't a foot of snow covering everything I couldn't point out the flower beds Dad took pride in or the evergreen I used to run behind as a toddler to...never mind.

Looking Out the Front Door, early 1970s
The view from the front yard. Amherst Quarries is in the background, from which we felt occasional blasts. The plants sticking up are rising from a large ditch, which we sledded down one year thanks to leftover Liberal election signs. Our school bus stop was one door over but our porch was used as a shelter whenever the sky opened up. The field remained as it was until recent construction of a new elementary school - rainbows often formed over it.

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