The dude above is my grandfather, George W. Searls. He was born during the Civil War, in 1863, and died in 1935 at age 72, twelve years before I was born. This shot was taken when he was about 40, I’d guess. It’s from a group photo of a bunch of workers, some holding wrenches and posing one way or another. But there is nothing posed about this guy.
Even my aunt, George’s daughter Grace, never saw this shot — at least not this way, enlarged by the miracle of scanning. She also told me she never knew her father at this age, since the old guy was already 49 when she was born in 1912. It’s one among many I scanned these last few days at Grace’s house in Maine. Connectivity there is by satellite. It beats the alternatives, but it’s poor for uploads. So now I’m home and catching up.
I wish I’d had more time to go through and scan more of the many shots Grace pulled out of boxes in her basement. Two I was glad to catch are these here: shots of the original Cyclone roller coaster at Palisades Park in New Jersey. My grandfather helped build it. (He can be seen in one of the two pictures.) Perhaps my father too. We were told for many years that Grandpa was a master carpenter on the job. It’s plausable. He was an accomplished carpenter who had worked on many varied jobs over the years, including building railroad bridges, working on the Panama Canal, and constructing sets for Universal Studios when Hollywood was still in Fort Lee. He would have been turning 65 when these pictures were taken.
More background: George was born in Syracuse, New York, to Allen and Esther Bixby Searls, the youngest of seven children. The first five were girls, the next two were George and Charles. Grace told me that George left home at 14 after tiring of being “henpecked” and went off to make a life for himself. He did stay close to he family, however. So did some of his sibs. I still remember his older sister, Eva Quackenbush. Aunt Eva was born in 1852 and was 12 or 13 years old when Lincoln was shot. I’m sure she told that story often because I recalled it when JFK was shot in 1963, ten years after Eva’s last visit not long before she died, a couple weeks shy of 100. She said it changed everything.
Anyway, this shot of Grandpa is one of my favorite of all time.
You can see the whole (growing) series at this photoset celebrating my father’s 100th birthday.