I came across this picture the other day in the archives of a family member’s photo album. I don’t know anyone in this picture. To my knowledge, these men are distant uncles and brothers of distant uncles and brothers.
But I often wonder about pictures like this. What were they doing on September 5, 1948? Why were they together? What were they thinking?
My guess? I suspect that these men, in their wool pants and starched white shirts gathered in the high heat of that lazy Sunday afternoon for a fried chicken dinner. A dry, hot breeze blew across Cleo Street as they talked politics; Truman was on his Whistle-Stop campaign with a train in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that very afternoon giving another speech and talking about the Republican Congress. The proud central-Indiana Republicans wondered aloud about his chances. Talk turned to the pastor’s sermon from that morning and then they landed on a subject that mattered most: The dry weather. It had been nearly a month since they had any rain to speak of (little did they know they would have an inch of rain on their fields before the end of next day). They spoke of the excessive heat and the suffering crops. It was hot and it was dry. It was a typical Sunday afternoon discussion.
But I also suspect at 3:00, someone carried the old Philco out to the lawn and turned it on. As it crackled to life and they searched for the right station, they leaned back, closed their eyes and listened to the Brooklyn Dodgers take on the New York Giants at Ebbets Field. They smiled at the sound of the 37,000+ cheering fans coming through the radio and into their yard. It was a long game and somewhere around 5:30 they filled their plates with more chicken and cheered with mouths full of potato salad as the game went into extra innings, tied one-a-piece. They held their breath in the top of the 12th when the Giants’ first baseman, Johnny Mize knocked one over the wall and drove in Whitey Lockman, making it a three to one game in favor of the Giants. They sat on the edge of their benches, leaning closer to the radio in the bottom of the 12th as the Dodgers managed to get the bases loaded with two outs. They probably sat, chewing their chicken quietly as a pitching change was announced and Ray Poat replaced Dave Koslo on the mound. But they clapped one another on the backs and cheered heartily when, with two balls and no strikes against him, George Shuba smacked a ball deep into right field driving in Billy Cox and Eddie Miksis for the 4-3 win!
The game was over and the men were jubilant. Some aunt or sister of distant aunts and sisters, and the other women who had watched these men share a meal and enjoy the game, got out her old Brownie camera and told them to wipe the chicken grease from their chins and smile for the camera. And that picture, that moment lives on in the archive of a photo album of a family member. Anyone who sees the photograph knows it is true: The day was a grand success.
At least that’s the story I see in this picture.