This post replies to this week’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” theme from Amy Johnson Crow: “Social.”
I’ve been scanning thousands of slides I inherited from my father that cover the years from the mid-1950s into the late 1980s, corresponding to his college days and then into his 50s, when the landscape of his life changed and also he starting using less slide film. One striking thing about all the images is the amount of parties that he and my mom had together, from before they were married to well into the early 1980s, before their marriage ended. They were, to meet the theme of the 52 Ancestors challenge, quite social.
On one slide mount showing one of their first dates in college, “Best Couple, Dorm Party.” The event occurred in late winter or early spring 1958 at Southern Illinois University, where they had met the previous semester. Some other images from around that time and place follow.
Here is a photo on which my dad wrote “Hall Party,” and the mount is dated June 1958, so the event probably took place in May. My future parents are on the right, but the other guy appears in a photo with my mom that, honestly is one of the greatest photos I’ve seen from his collection.
After college in fall 1960 (well, for my mom, my dad had a semester left because he lost a semester at his first college to being too social), they continued to socialize with their friends. I like this photo of a small house (or basement) party with some other recognizable faces. My mom, second from the right, seems to know my dad (or someone with his camera) is taking a picture, and the woman to her right was seen in the third photo above.
I never did learn the names of my parents’ college friends, save for one of my dad’s.
One thing that really strikes me about these images is that all of these people are 21, 22, maybe 23 years old (my parents were both 22). And yet their style of clothes and hair make them seem much older to me. Here’s a photo of me (on the right) with two of my college friends when we were the same age.
Anyway, back to my parents. They got married in December 1960, moved to St. Louis, where their first child was born in 1962, then moved to Santa Fe, then moved to Abilene, Texas in about 1964. They continued to be “social” there. In this photo, they are performing at a party in someone’s backyard and, I guess, having a good time. Let’s call them 28 or so.
Possibly just a year later, and a whole new hairstyle later, here is my mom and a long-time friend at a gathering.
I was born in 1969, and the family moved to Dallas in 1971. In between trips to Disneyworld, south Florida, Louisiana, and other places, my parents continued to find time to be social. I remember while growing up frequently going to their friends’ houses for parties, or them hosting parties at our house. Sometimes I would be left at home with my older sister and her friends, who watched over me and my best friend from down the street and his little sister. Sometimes, I’d go to their friend’s house and sit in their library or bedroom and read or watch TV.
These two photos aren’t great quality, but they show my parents in pretty happy times, hosting a holiday party in 1973 at our house. Since my mom is holding a fondue pot, I guess fondue was on the menu. I do not remember eating fondue at home ever.
The picture of my dad is the only photo in which I have ever seen him wearing a bow tie, and one of the few in which he is wearing a tie at all. That wallpaper, y’all.
The next year, my mom donned a peasant blouse, and my dad got himself into a turtleneck and jacket. Someone else took this photo, and it is a bad photo and I’m mad about that but still it reminds me that they once had a lot of fun together.
I remember in the 1980s going to a lot of social functions with my mom (mostly just with her) at other people’s houses. The adults all wanted me to play on their team in Trivial Pursuit. Here I am in between bouts of reading Mad Magazine and trying to cope at one such party.
My parents separated in 1984 and divorced in 1986. I went to college in 1987 and during those years I don’t think they were very social together, for obvious reasons. But as the years passed from the end of their marriage, they seemed to reconnect socially when their children and grandchildren were involved, especially. We were always grateful for that. It felt like a perfectly natural thing when we’d be at my mom’s house, and some of those old family friends of theirs would stop by, and so would my dad, and we’d “visit,” as my mom liked to say.
— Fred Dews