Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Collecting: June Weddings & Rape Whistles

A few weeks ago we had the good fortune to go hang out with our friends Lauren (Wearing History blog/Wearing History Patterns) and her husband.  She took us to some of the "secret spot" thrift stores in her neck of the woods and, while digging through the potential loot, I found an album chock full of wedding photos dating from the late 1910's through the 1950's - a serious score at only $5!  I love old photographs.  I always wonder what combination of tragedy and/or oversight leads to entire family albums being discarded and sold at tag sales, flea markets and thrift stores.  It is a boon for me because I love finding old photos - especially the kind that feature great clothes, funny faces, poignant events and ANYTHING western!  I actually came by this personal peculiarity honestly as, one day when I was very young, my mom (an inveterate trash digger) found and subsequently hung above the piano an oval frame of gleaming tiger maple and convex glass from behind which an 1890's era photograph of the creepiest-looking, twin girls stared - and continue to stare - at me no matter where I was in the room.  I am such a fan of buying up the unknown, pictorial history of other people's families that at some point I think I will forget which black and white faces hanging on the walls are actual relatives and which faces are strangers.  Here are some of the best wedding photos from my latest album.

Clearly the happiest day of their lives.

I LOVE this photo.  He looks so happy to have won her.

One with the boys...

...and one with the girls



I am a fan of a simple wedding and an extravagant marriage.  I think a huge wedding can be great but I am much more drawn to intimate nuptials and the photos of sweethearts who got married in spite of the odds.  I'll take a courthouse wedding over an extravaganza any day.


To me, this is probably the most romantic photo in the bunch.

My love for old photos isn't exclusive to photos of strangers; our family home has always been filled with photo documentation of our own family history.  Every chance I get, I convince my mom to give me the photos of my ancestors that I find particularly charming and meaningful.  Since the theme of the photos is "weddings," I decided to share the wedding photo of my paternal grandparents.  They were sweethearts from a very early age and despite having personalities, theories and behaviors of the most polar-opposite variety, they were married for over 45 years.  This is a photo for which one day I know I will have to fight my brothers and sisters.

Bob & Leona
Wedding Day 1949

I give my grandpa a lot of credit for inspiring my love of swap meets and hamburgers and everything old-timey.  He loved to collect.  He loved to read.  He loved to tinker.  He loved growing tomatoes.  He was tireless in his affection for my brothers, sisters, cousins and myself.  He is the kindest person I have ever met and he continues to inspire me more than 15 years after his passing.  Yes, my grandpa was amazing.

My grandma?  Well, my grandma was crazy.  Her name was Leona.  Tell me, have you ever met anyone named Leona that wasn't crazy?  My grandma was so deliciously a product of her generation that I miss her every day.  I think she was, quite unwittingly, the queen of wacky tacky.  Her house was always immaculate; it was truly a "place for everything and everything in its place," type of home - including every rubber band and every glass jar that she had ever gotten her hands on.  A great many years had passed, but to Leona, the Great Depression was still in full swing.  I don't think she threw out a morsel of food in her entire existence.  Every leftover made its way into a soup, a meatloaf or one of her famous jell-os.  Her dinner table groaned under the bounty of food that was just enough to feed my family - who on any given day could eat any army under the table.  My favorite stories to share about "Mima Lee" (the affectionate moniker we bestowed upon her only after she died) include pot holders, vacuum cleaner bags, answering machines and rape whistles.

My grandma lived in the desert and living in the desert is hot.  She complained to my uncle enough times about the blistering temperature of the steering wheel in her Buick that he finally bought her a steering wheel cover.  Apparently that gesture was far too little and far too late.  My grandmother, mistress of innovation, had already solved her problem and decided that pot mitts, being sufficient to protect her hands from the scalding heat of roasting pans, were the perfect solution.  She could be found driving around Sun City, CA wearing seasonally-appropriate pot mitts.  Yep, they changed with the seasons.

My grandma, in an effort to outsmart the 99cents Store and their outrageous mark-ups, only shopped at her local 98cent + Store.  Feeling that the check she gave each of us for Christmas was too impersonal, she always loaded up gift bags with the very best trinkets and treasures to be had for 98cents +.  One year she showed up at our house and put all of our presents under the tree.  However, something was decidedly different that year; the gift bags had a dull-grey finish, a cardboard adapter and printed instructions.  Did you know that at the 98cent + Store holiday-themed gift bags are $0.98 each but vacuum cleaner bags are 3 for $0.98.  You do the math.

My grandma could not figure out her answering machine.  She hounded us for months to come out to her house so we could record the outgoing message.  During a visit to her house, we sat down and finally recorded her outgoing message and she was grateful.  She was grateful until her sister, a real downer, called her and, unable to reach my grandma, heard the following,  "Hello, you have reached Leona's House of Ecstasy.  If you are a gentleman caller, please leave your vital statistics and she will gladly return your call."  After that, we started receiving threatening messages on our answering machine.  Where was her sense of humor?

My grandma had extra toothbrushes in almost every drawer in her house.  She decorated her Christmas Tree with porcelain dolls.  She employed the blender in almost every meal that she prepared.  She hid her coin collection in the air ducts.  Oh yeah, she loved us.  I know because she gave each of us a new rape whistle every year.


Mr. Tiny


  1. I LOVE This post so much!!! Wonderful stories- your grandma sounds swell!
    Thanks for sharing those photos, too. That outfit the lady's wearing with the soutache is yummy!

  2. I collect photos too and have been in the process of scanning my collection to scan on the blog. The wedding photos are the best because they are something that should be treasured by future generations but sadly have been let loose at the estate sale/thrift/antique store.

    Thank you for sharing the sweet moments with your grandparents, they sound like people I would have loved to meet!

  3. Thanks you guys! I loved writing this post.

  4. Such a great post! I laughed out loud when you mentioned the answering machine message you recorded for your grandmother. Fantastic.

  5. ha ha ha! I think your grandma sounds awesome! Pot holders, thats bloody genius! Lol

    the photos are beautiful! What a great find!!

    rape whistles mean you care!


    Awesome post

  6. Aww those are lovely! Makes me want to have a real wedding with only attractive people in my court. haha. Just kidding!


  7. Love this post. I totally agree with your take on small intimate weddings. therefore, I think you will really like to see what we are doing with our wedding! Keep up post like these!


  8. Thanks again everybody. I truly question the brain which makes the connection between vintage wedding photos and rape whistles.

    Trixie - Thanks for following!! High praise indeed!

    Dollie - I can't wait to hear about what you guys have planned!

  9. This is a wonderful collection. My parents lost their wedding album and I keep hoping I'll see it show up on a site like this. Thanks for posting.

  10. This is one of the best posts that I have ever read ANYWHERE. Oh my gosh, I love it. And how I love your grandma. I get all misty eyed wishing that I could have met her.