Family Photographs… and their stories: The Family Portrait

Family Photographs… and their stories

I’ve always loved the older family photographs, and every time I leaf through my albums, I always ask “what’s your story?” Every photo has one – and it’s my mission to tell them – one by one. After beginning my weekly series on Family Heirlooms, I thought… why not tell the stories on the family photographs.

The Family Portrait

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The Family Photograph

Undoubtedly mama wanted a family photo, and by the famous Olin Mills studio stamp on the photograph, it tells me who took this portrait. I’m sure daddy wasn’t keen on that idea, but… Mama seemed to have gotten her way!

Olin Mills was the most popular photography studio at that time; it began in 1932 out of Chattanooga, Tenn. with owners Olin and Mary Mills. I date this photo around 1962.

I posted in a couple of Facebook Restoration groups in hopes of getting my photo colored and I had two awesome people who took on the tasks. I love both of them!

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Ruth Elizabeth Mesarch of “We Fix Picks: Facebook group

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Ted Altizer of “Genealogist Photo Restoration Group” Facebook group

My mother sewed most all my clothes until I begged for store-bought dresses, which probably wasn’t too long after this photo was taken. I have many memories of dress shopping on the downtown streets of Macon, Ga. and bringing home many new bought dresses. I was a teenager at the beginning of the mini dress era, and I remember how short my dresses were, and they were short. I don’t honestly know how I even managed sitting in them, but that was what was sold on the racks at that time. One of my male teachers in high school told me he was going to measure my dresses and it must be so many inches above my knee – well that didn’t sit well with mama and she promptly told him that if he laid one hand on my knee, well…..  The ruler never came out!

For this photo, mama sewed not only my dress but also hers. They both were green, (she said) but I think mine was a more lighter shade to accent the vibrant colors of the Mexican embroidery she added. When I asked about the embroidery, I was told that this was the only dress she embroidered on, but she did much needle work on pillowcases and dresser scarves. I’m told there were also a couple of Mexican hats on the bottom too, but sadly there seems to be no picture showing the entire dress. Mama wishes now that she had kept this dress, but no one thought of things like that back then, she gave it to her girlfriends daughter to wear when I outgrew.

My mother didn’t remember exactly where she found the pattern, but quickly told me I was asking too many questions of a time so long ago; then added that she probably had found the pattern at the store where she shopped for cloth and sewing patterns; I’m assuming it was a store in Perry, where we lived at the time.

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Mexican embroidery on dress

I searched the internet, secretly hoping to find this vintage Mexican motif pattern, but had no luck! It’s pretty simple with just the hats, cactus and a bowl, so I’m confident I can draw it up – as I’d like to recreate the pattern on a dress for my grandchildren. Maybe I can tackle making some pillowcase dresses for the summer and embroidery on them. The problem is, I have five granddaughters – and you know what that means – five dresses. My mother tells me I’m crazy every time I tell her I’m making something because she knows I’ll make 5! She say’s she is past that faze! LOL. Mama makes me laugh!

© 2016 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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6 Responses to Family Photographs… and their stories: The Family Portrait

  1. I love this story. I think it would be fantastic to see replicas of your dress on another generation. With photos of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. treeklimber says:

    Resding about Olan Mills photographs and homemade dresses made me smile. It reminded me of my childhood. I’m sure you can sew 5 dresses in time. I have 3 sisters and my mother sewed all of our dresses for many years. It was exciting to get a store bought dress. Thanks for the memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Terrence Garnett says:

    Beautiful family photos!

    Liked by 1 person

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