Mary Virginia Graham Colorized – 1938

1930s mv hats08These three photographs of my mother’s sister, my aunt Mary Vee were taken in and around 1938.  The first two have been colorized, and not very well either.  What was happening in my aunt’s life then?  She was 18 years old and had graduated from Eastern High School and was attending business college, where she won a prize for certificate for her speed and accuracy.  After completing the program there, she worked for awhile at her uncle Jim McCall’s Newspaper.  Later some friends of my grandparents from Montgomery helped her get a job at the City County Building as a secretary, where she worked for many years. Some years ago, Mary Vee talked with her daughter about her experience working at the paper.

“… her job was to read all these articles to Cousin Jim McCall, since he was blind. From what she read to him, he would formulate his editorial articles. She said he had a  braille 1930s M.V.hats07typewriter. She said she learned so much,  just reading to him and talking to him about various topics. Mom said he was a wealth of information and he knew a lot about everything. She started working for them when she was 16 and continued every summer until she graduated from College. At that time, she said, it was due to a letter of recommendation from Uncle Jim that she landed the County job.”

What was happening in 1938:  following a number of years of success with the US economy a recession hit which caused unemployment to rise back to 19%. In Europe Germany was continuing it’s strategy of persecuting the Jews and occupation in Czechoslovakia, the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain went to Germany fearing another world war and after agreeing to allow Hitler could occupy Czechoslovakia declared “Peace in our time” . The law changed in the US that meant the minimum hourly wage was 40 cents per hour for a 44 hour working week. On September 21st a giant hurricane slammed into the east coast with little or no warning from the Weather Service , the hurricane caused 40 ft waves to hit Long Island

Connie Stowers and Mary V.
Connie Stowers and Mary V.

 and sixty three thousand people were left homeless and some 700 dead. On October 30th Orson Wells dramatization of “War of The Worlds” radio programme caused panic when it was broadcast more like a news breaking story than a play. Most of the world cheered when Germany’s Max Schmeling was defeated by a knock out in the first round by the great Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship.

And more: The Nanking Massacre took place in China during the continuing invasion of the Japanese during their invasion of China. The battle of Teruel, one of the most violent to occur during the Spanish Civil War, took place with German planes bombing the Spanish city. Guerilla warfare against Italy continued in Ethiopia.

What was going on in 1938?
What was going on in 1938?
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25 thoughts on “Mary Virginia Graham Colorized – 1938”

    1. So many things happening, so many of them violent and we know now where it was all going. Wonder what one of this years events would look like in 80 years time.

  1. I admire your aunt’s rakish style with her hats. Quite charming. And the pictures may not be perfectly tinted, but I agree with postcardy – they seem perfect for Sepia Sat., and the story behind them is interesting – especially about how she assisted her cousin, Jim, in his newspaper business. And above all is that wonderful banner photo of your family.

  2. Enjoyed your story of your aunt. The tinted photo’s add a bit of mystery and glamour to the picture of a beautiful lady. Loved the info about what the “climate” was like at that time of her life. Great post!!

  3. Another gorgeous relative, bad color job or not. Actually I find the amateurish quality somewhat endearing. How gutsy for a blind man to have a newspaper. I could spend hours looking at the 1938 collage.

  4. The colourised photos are stunning. I think they are all photobooth portraits, and could possibly have been colourised later by the subject herself. I know you could buy kits to do that.

    1. I have looked at this photographs often but never even wondered how they got colorized until I did this post. I believe she did do them herself because who would pay to get photobooth portraits colorized? That would explain the amaturish job. Now I am picturing her bent over the little photo colorizing it.

      1. Actually, Kristin, you may be surprised to hear that some photobooth companies did offer a colourising service. I have recently been corresponding with a man whose father ran one such booth in Wellington, New Zealand in the late 1930s-early 1940s, and his mother did the colourising.
        Sometimes the colours in colourised portraits look more bizarre than they might have at the time they were done, because the pigments have oxidised and therefore changed slightly with time, in perhaps odd ways, while the photographic emulsions have instead faded over time.

        1. By the way, thank you for scanning the entire extent of the photographs – seeing the edges provides so much more information than the usual cropped images that one sees in scanned family photos on the web.

          1. I thought the edges added more character to the photo. And being a photobooth photo, I imagine her going into the booth and wonder who she gave the other photographs too.

  5. These are just beautiful Kristin. I love them. For some reason they look authentic to me. Maybe I like to look at the past through rose coloured glasses!

  6. Excellent choices. The color adds a special modern style not usually seen in such photos. The year 1938 now seems like a tipping point in history and I often think about what family members were doing in the turbulent era.

  7. Oh Kirsten,
    Love the collage, my favorite Joe Louis and the book The good earth. Picturing taking during that era was another reason to dress up, I love the pic props during the 30’s and 40’s . You are so faithful with your blog. Hope one day you would share some organizing tips/time-table as to how do you prepare and get it all done. Thank you.

    1. As long as I only do blogging, all day long, I get posts done. I have a number I’m working on and I get ideas all the time, and see prompts so that’s no problem. Right now I have a post started on my Cleage grandparents migration north but other things keep coming up so it sits there half done. One day I will concentrate on that and just write up what I have and post it. Soon, I hope.

  8. Kristin, you are the collage guru and that one shows the world’s angst clearly on display…miserable news always makes headlines. Great photos and even better they are accompanied by the story of how she did her job. You have to admire the man’s dedication to work overcoming his disability. I agree they colourising isn’t great- perhaps that was all they could afford.

    1. If she did it herself, I’m sure she wasn’t an expert. If they were offering colorizing for photobooth photos, I’m sure it wasn’t done so carefully. My aunt and my mother’s high school graduation photos were also colorized but they are done very carefully and realistically.

  9. Too bad about Mary Vee’s lipstick. HA! It’s interesting what information comes out in these Sepia Saturday posts, particularly what Brett had to add.

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