Found Family Photos

IMG_1872

Before I knew her, my grandmother, Eloise McKerrall Mathews, had been a dancer. During a recent trip to my parents’ house in Montgomery, we found this box of very old photos — including these great ones of a young Eloise in some of her dancing costumes and poses. None of us remembers having seen these photos before.

IMG_1870

We also found these newspaper clippings from April of 1909, details of a “Baby Opera” at Montgomery’s Grand Theatre. My grandmother, age 3, appeared with her brother Jack, age 4, and her cousin Carolyn, also 3. Someone has labeled this by hand: “First appearance in public.”

IMG_1881

According to the lengthy(!) write-up in the Montgomery Advertiser, Eloise and Carolyn were dressed as “May Dolls” and Jack as a clown. The girls sang a tune called “School Days,” and the three of them together performed the “A. B. C. of the U. S. A.” For an encore they sang “Eat, Drink and Be Merry for Tomorrow You May Die.”

IMG_1869

IMG_1876

The Advertiser reports that throughout the night “There were on the stage all sorts of babies, dressed alike in every act.” In one scene, Eloise and Jack appeared as minister and maid of honor in a “Lilliputian wedding.” That’s my grandmother, in the middle, on the broom:

IMG_1878

Speaking of lost-and-found photos, all the month of January I’ll be posting to Instagram daily photos from the fascinating history of Birmingham jazz. Follow @lostchildradio for some great images and anecdotes from the last hundred years; and follow this blog, if you’re not already, for occasional updates.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Listen to this and feel good.

Today on WBHM, our local NPR affiliate, a story aired about my stepdaughter Norah and the letter she wrote to the Jefferson Country Health Department. She wrote the letter a couple of years ago, concerned about the flu shots required by her school; she didn’t expect a response but she got one, and it was beautiful. I eventually wrote about it on this blog, and I posted both letters. A few months after that, WBHM interviewed Norah and Dr. Mark Wilson about their exchange. You can hear the radio story here. (And you can read both letters in my original post, here.)

Weirdly enough, Norah’s mom (my wife, Glory) has also appeared on WHBM, exactly once, seven years ago, when Norah was just three — in, of all things, another story about vaccinating kids. If you don’t believe me, you can hear that story too, here.  Every family has its traditions, I guess.

Of course, we’re proud of Norah, and it’s also just nice to hear something nice on the news. “Don’t ever stop caring about others,” Dr. Wilson wrote in his letter. It’s about as good advice as any kid could hope to get. And there’s this: in the interview, Norah says she was surprised but excited to get a response to her letter — excited just to know “that what I had written mattered.” What a powerful, indispensable message for a young person to receive.

So, there’s your feel-good moment for the day. Now, y’all go get yourselves inoculated, if you haven’t already this year. That flu is some nasty stuff.