What fun!

October of 1940. I was 7 months old at the time. This is a Kodachrome   slide by Russell Lee taken in Pie Town New Mexico. Lee was a photographer who worked for the Farm Service Administration (FSA) and later the War Information Service.

The image was one a a series he took in Pie Town and at one of their barbecues. This is part of the barbecue set. Pie town was a homesteaded area in the mid western part of the state.

What do we see here? Well my knees hurt, there is no way in hell I could hunker with these guys, but then maybe if I lost some weight. But with arthritis and being a wee shy of 72, naw.  If you look at this series of images there are few if any obese people in Pie Town in 1940. Life is too hard for that nonsense. I live in Santa Fe, about 100 miles from Pie Town. Santa Fe now is pretty cosmopolitan but wearing Stetson, as these guys are all doing, attracts no attention, it’s standard dress. All of the guys have nicely pressed shirts which are seldom seen in the day to day shots Lee took during his 1940 stay. They are all wearing ties too. No doubt the annual barbecue was a big event and one did not take it lightly. The picture is almost timeless but the headlamp above the shoulder of the man on the left is a giveaway.


Another of my favorite Russell Lee photographs.


The Jack Whinery family. Not that this is a 4×5 Kodachrome which the 4×5 format was discontinued in 1951. I don’t believe it was made in any other sheet film format. Amazing color that has lated 70 years and there appears to be no fading whatsoever. Kodak (actually Mannes and Godowsky) got it right and didn’t fool with it until Kodachrome 64! Check out Mannes and Godowsky on Wikipedia. Their story is fascinating and I think we can see the George Eastman was no fool. He jumped on every advancement that came along, it was not the Kodak of today. Another fascinating read is From Dry Plate to Ektachrome by C.E. Kenneth Mees (1961). Mees sent someone to Kodak France to investigate why they were writing reports on the development of b+w film in aged burgundy wine!

OK, back to Jack and his family. This picture says so much. One could write about it all day. I’d bet the dresses are made by mom and of course handed down to each daughter as they grew. Been there done that, but I was the oldest and I can see Gary wearing my clothes. Poor kid! They are also likely made from feed sacks which came in various patterns and colors, and were used as sacks for this very reason. They were known as sack dresses. This was long before the hideous fashion craze of sack dresses in the mid-50’s.


Do a Google on “feedsack fabric.” There are lots of reproduction for sale today in fabric stores. There is also some history and amusing stories about the labels that often couldn’t be removed.  If it couldn’t be removed they were often used for underwear. One story relates a man whose wife used fabric with the label “Self Rising”  to make his under drawers.

Small families were not the norm, but these kids are pretty well spaced in time. It’s is kind of Walker Evanish or maybe even Langeish. But there is more optimism here than in most of Evan’s pictures. There is a Calvinistic sternest  in the parents expression, especially the mother. Jack is smiling a little, just a bit.

The calendar on the wall shows the 1940 date in the higher res versions of the picture.

OK, I found this: Credit to someone named Alexandra who is quoted and a site: http://www.shorpy.com/node/1595#comment-70749   A vintage photo site.

“….I was in Pie Town a few days ago and managed to find the name of all the Whinery children. The oldest girl is Laura; Velva (middle name “Mae”) is in pink, and Wanda is in white. The eldest boy is A.J, and the baby boy’s name is Lawrence.

I know for certain that Wanda, Velva, and Lawrence have died. Wanda was born in Adrin, Texas on August 29, 1931 and died on May 27, 2007 at the age of 75. She was married twice, to Clifford Miller on Nov 4, 1956, and she had four children, two boys and two girls, and Chester Kosakowski, age 81, on Oct 31, 2005. In her obituary it says that Wanda and Lawrence preceded her in death, Wanda likely unmarried as they referred to her as Wanda Whinery instead of with a married name. It also said that Laura and A.J. survived her, so unless they have passed away in the meantime, Laura is living in Clifton, Colorado, with the married name Murray, and A.J is living in Dayton (it doesn’t say which of the 23 Daytons in the US, so I’m guessing it is Dayton, TX)”


2 comments on “Looking at pictures — Hunkering and more Pie Town

  1. Sergey,

    Your right. I missed that.

    Any of these guys could walk around the Santa Fe plaza without drawing attention. I doubt the women could, as women’s fashions, and hair styles would be pretty far out style for today.

    Thanks for the comment.
    @Sergey Botvin

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