The thing that struck me was how dressed up everyone was in the 1930's. Even in the 1950's, when I was growing up, I remember my mother would always put on a hat, even to go next door. And when it was a tea party or church, both she and I would wear a hat and white gloves. (Please click "read more" to see the other photos).The photo above was taken by one of those street photographers who snap you by surprise and then offer to sell it to you on a post card. My mother, Martha Dobson Paulson, and my father, Robert Odegard Paulson, may have been walking in downtown Minneapolis, where they lived when they were first married. Is Martha holding gloves in her hand?
The two photos of the car are dated "Eau Claire, Wisc. Fall 1931"--before my parents were married. Clearly they both were very proud of that car. I hope someone will tell me the make and model. My mother loved driving to see the fall foliage, and it was doing that a few years later that they got in a serious accident that damaged Martha's legs and scarred her knees so that she always wore her skirts below her knees, even in the '60's and '70's era of the mini skirts. Is she wearing white shoes after Labor Day?
Below are my parents in January of 1935, surrounded by snow drifts in Glenwood Park, Minnesota. I adored that coat with its fur collar and cuffs, and wanted one like it. My mother always looked so chic, but never in her life would she pay big bucks for designer clothes. And when they were first married, in the depths of the Great Depression, Martha and Bob lived in a tiny apartment in Minneapolis, frequently ate canned beans for dinner, and on weekends Martha would cook up a big pot of spaghetti to feed Bob's fraternity brothers from the University of Minnesota, who would contribute to the cost of the meal. (Eventually, in the 1960's, my father was more prosperous and he was able to buy my mother a silver mink stole, which matched her famous silver --by then-- hair that was always piled on top of her head. That stole was her favorite thing. Nowadays you can't give away mink stoles.)
The shockingly revealing (for a minister's daughter) bathing suit photo below is also from 1935. Martha's Presbyterian minister father was so strict that she and her eight sibings could not play cards or read the paper on Sundays. They went to church morning and afternoons, with a visiting minister often joining them for Sunday dinner at noon.
The picture below always reminds me of the film "Casablanca", with my parents on a train, but they weren't fleeing the invading Germans. Bob's company had moved them from Minneapolis to Syracuse New York. I believe Martha has a corsage on. She told me that she was crying so hard when she packed her suitcase (she didn't want to go to Syracuse) that she packed what she thought was a black jar of face cream but it was a bottle of ink that leaked and ruined her clothes.
My mother was very conscientious about labeling and dating photos, and on the back of the one below she wrote "Feb. 8, '42 One year and 4 days. Second time Joan walked alone." Don't you love my ruffled pinafore? I suspect my mother has on nylon stockings and a garter belt. She told me that during the war, when they couldn't get nylons, she and her friends would paint makeup on their legs to look like stockings and draw a seam down the back of the leg.
And here's the earliest photo in the folder I found--dated 1915, a hundred years ago-- showing the Dobson family sitting on church steps in Tracy, Minnesota. Martha, the moppet in the front next to her father, Frederick Fee Dobson, has already perfected the model's pout. (As an adult, she actually was a model for a while in photographic ads.) In the back is her mother, Anna Truan Dobson, whom I have written about before on this blog. Pictured here are seven of their nine children--two more girls would be born, the last one when Anna was 49 years old and had white hair.
Martha's parents were married in 1896 in Indian Territory before it became the state of Oklahoma, and Anna, who had two college degrees, taught the Native Americans quilting and piano and French, while her husband founded churches and schools. And like her daughter Martha, Anna really knew how to wear a hat.